Assessment in the Graduate Certificate course is mostly negotiated and encourages you to focus on the learning goals and activities which are most related to your work, interests and needs. You will provide evidence of your learning through developing a reflective teaching portfolio which will contain all of the work you do in the course and show that you have met the course objectives. You will develop your portfolio as you progress through the course. You will be required to submit your portfolio evidence at least once each semester.
If you are doing the whole course, by the end your portfolio will contain:
- evidence which shows that you have achieved the learning objectives of the subjects that you are doing. This may include materials that you've developed as part of your everyday teaching, accompanied by your reflection. Evidence can include video or audio material or links to web sites along with other forms of written material;
- evidence of completing a small scholarly teaching and learning project in which you plan, carry out, evaluate and reflect on a change intended to improve an aspect of learning and teaching in your subject. This project could build on other work that you do in the course and/or be a pilot for a larger teaching innovation and development project.
Your portfolio may also contain other reflections or documents related to your teaching or other aspects of your academic role. It may therefore contain a record of your learning both in the course and in your teaching and other academic work.
What if I'm doing the course over more than one year?
You will begin your portfolio at the beginning of the course and add to it progressively as you complete course modules and activities.
What if I'm only doing two of the four subjects?
Your portfolio will contain at minimum the evidence of your learning relevant to these subjects, and you can choose to include other material if you wish.
How does the reflective teaching portfolio relate to the Academic Portfolio I'm developing as a new academic?
The reflective portfolio may form the teaching part of your Academic Portfolio. It may also be used to provide evidence of your teaching and other achievements for the purpose of review processes for tenure or performance enhancement. As part of your negotiation, you may choose to focus on developing your portfolio with this in mind.
Relationship between the portfolio and assessment of subjects
The reflective teaching portfolio is the overall collection of evidence which shows that you have achieved the overall course objectives which include the learning objectives for each subject.
You will negotiate the form that your porfolio evidence will take with your course adviser. Evidence could range from a series of materials produced as part of your teaching and subjects, accompanied by reflections, to a larger project written up in the form of a conference paper or journal article accompanied by background materials.
Every participant in the GradCertHEd will have different learning goals and expectations. The examples given below are an indication of the diverse ways in which portfolios can be developed.
Example 1: The 'reflective journal' approach
You could choose to make regular entries in your portfolio, based on your reading and reflection on your teaching and subjects. Your project could then focus on a particular issue that you've idenfied from your reflections
Example 2: The action research project
You could choose to complete the entire course by undertaking an action research project with several cycles of planning, action, observation/evaluation and reflection focusing on the objectives of the different subjects. You may choose to do this with the intention of developing a publishable paper on aspects of teaching and learning innovation in your subject.
Example 3: Developing evidence of teaching and educational development for probation or promotion
You could choose to focus on developing evidence which relates to the course subjects and directly relates to the criteria for promotion. Your portfolio would contain examples of teaching and subject materials, evaluation findings with your analysis and informed reflection on the rationale for your materials, your responses to the evaluations and intentions for future developments.
How do I negotiate what I'm planning to do?
You will negotiate your ideas with your adviser, who will be the liaison person for your Faculty. A discussion forum will be provided on UTSOnline or Canvas for discussing learning plans and portfolios. Post your ideas and plans there and you will receive feedback. You will also be able to read others' plans, which may give you further ideas for your own work. If you are worried about submitting your "first draft" ideas in public you may post anonymously, but you'll need to include your posting in your portfolio.
If you wish to use a more formal learning contract approach for negotiating your plans, a learning contract template and some examples can be downloaded from the course site. You can submit this as an attachment to your discussion posting.
At the beginning of each semester there is one course session time specifically for discussion of reflective teaching portfolios. This will include a question/answer session for raising and discussing common questions and issues.
Assessment submission and deadlines
Your portfolio will be submitted for formal assessment and feedback once during each semester of the course. There are two ways you can submit your portfolio:
- Portfolios in print-based form are submitted to Enza Mirabella, the course administrator.
- Portfolio work in electronic form is submitted via the Assessment links in Canvas unless you've negotiated to submit in an alternative form. (One past participant developed a portfolio in the form of a blog.)
The course is assessed on a satisfactory/not yet satisfactory basis
Satisfactory work in the course overall shows that you have reflected critically on your teaching, assessment, course design etc in relation to your students' learning. This means that you have gone beyond simply describing what you or your students do. You have provided evidence that you have thought about, understood and questioned how different aspects of your practice are likely to affect students' learning and considered alternatives, based on your reading of some relevant literature. You have probably identified changes you'd like to make to improve your students' learning and are able to justify why you believe that they will be effective. You are able to describe how your own understanding of teaching has developed and changed and it is likely that you have questioned some of the assumptions that you took for granted before you began the course. Your portfolio leaves the reader in no doubt that you have achieved the learning objectives of the course.
Evidence relating to each of the subjects will need to meet two essential assessment criteria:
- critical reflection on the aspects of your practice addressed in the subject, which demonstrates your understanding of the relation between that aspect of your practice and your students' learning. For example, to meet the criteria for Course design and assessment, you need to reflect critically on the relationship between your subject design and assessment practice and your students' learning.
- supporting your reflections with evidence from relevant literature and other sources.
Work which is not yet satisfactory simply describes your practice or presents some data that you have collected with little or no evidence of critical reflection. The work shows little or no evidence of considering your students' or others' perspectives and little understanding of any literature on teaching and student learning. Often there will be one or more of: unquestioned or unsupported assumptions; little consideration of alternative explanations; rationalisations about why nothing can change; claims for which there is no evidence. Your portfolio leaves the reader feeling that you have learned little or nothing from the course, or that if you have learned something you have not provided adequate evidence.
If you submit evidence of learning which is "not yet satisfactory", you will be given feedback and an opportunity to make changes and resubmit, or submit supplementary pieces of work.
Academic referencing conventions
As this is a university course, the work that you submit in your portfolio is expected to provide evidence of your own understanding and reflections on learning, and properly acknowledge the external sources that you have used. Work which contains excessive paraphrasing of referenced sources suggests a lack of understanding, and you will usually be asked to resubmit the work. Failing to acknowledge your sources is plagiarism and is unacceptable. At minimum you will be asked to resubmit, however penalties for plagiarism may include failing the piece of work or the entire subject.
If you are uncertain about the academic conventions which generally apply, you may wish to refer to the UTS guidelines on good academic practice.
As different disciplines and journals have different referencing styles, you may use either a style which is used in refereed journals in higher education, or one which is used in refereed journals in your own discipline. If you need a refresher on referencing conventions (or would like a site to which to refer your own students) refer to the UTS Library's referencing guides.
What is Reflection?
All subjects in the GradCertHEd require critical reflection. Critical reflection involves reviewing our activities, thinking critically about them, challenging our assumptions and justifying changes. It is part of the process of researching our own teaching, and includes thinking about what teaching means to us, what our intentions are for teaching and learning, why we teach in particular ways or whether things have gone as intended and why. An important part of critical reflection is asking ourselves "why" questions about teaching and learning, considering possible reasons why we think a class, assignment etc went well, or didn't, and considering alternatives for how and why we might do things differently.
Reflection is defined in multiple ways by multiple authors, but there are some common themes. Brookfield (1995) describes reflective teaching as follows:
"Critically reflective teaching happens when we identify and scrutinise the assumptions that undergird how we work. The most effective way to become aware of these assumptions is to view our practice from different perspectives. Seeing how we think and work through different lenses is the core process of reflective practice."
In the case of teaching, the different "lenses" that Brookfield refers to include your experiences, and the perspectives gained from students, colleagues, and reading the literature. Throughout the GradCertHEd course, you will be encouraged to reflect critically on your views on teaching and learning through looking at them from this range of perspectives. You will develop your Reflective Portfolio so that it contains written (and perhaps other) evidence of your critical reflection.
Advice on reflective writing
Reflective writing is different from the descriptive writing used in diaries, records of meetings or casual notes about what seemed to work well or didn't in a class session. Hatton and Smith (1995) provide one useful way of recognising different types of writing. The terms they use are not particularly important, but note the distinctions they make between the different types:
Descriptive writing is not reflective. It simply describes events and does not attempt to provide reasons for these events or thoughts about their implications. Descriptive writing is useful for recalling what happened, and we'd expect that your reflections would include it, but description alone is not adequate for the critical reflection we expect in your Reflective portfolio. eg:
"The lecture today dealt with the structure and function of a part of the body. I had just heard about the idea of buzz groups so I broke students up into buzz groups twice and it seemed to go OK. I managed to get through the lecture but the students still talked a lot."
Note that the writer doesn't comment on their thinking about why things happened in the way they did - for example, why buzz groups were used, why they thought students talked, why they thought that the lecture went OK despite the talking. The writer also doesn't include anything which suggests that they are looking from different perspectives eg that of the students or the literature.
Descriptive reflection includes both a description of events and some reasons for why they occurred. At a more sophisticated level, it might involve using perspectives from literature to provide these reasons. Again it is not yet adequate for the critical reflection we expect, but it's closer: eg:
"Last week I read Keith's paper (Trigwell, 1995) and it commented on using buzz groups to help students compare their understandings. So this week I tried breaking students into buzz groups because I wanted them to explore what they thought were the relationships between the structure and function of the part of the body we were dealing with. They seemed to think quite a bit about it and mostly came up with good answers - I think it helped them to understand the main connections between structure and function that I was trying to get across but one of the buzz group questions seemed to work better than the other and I'm trying to work out why. I had hoped that students wouldn't talk as much during the rest of the lecture, because they'd had opportunities to talk in the buzz groups, but they still talked quite a lot towards the end when I was rushing to get finished. I must remember to find out more info about stopping students talking."
Note that this writer has gone further than the first, by asking questions about why things are happening. The writer is commenting on whether they think students are learning, but hasn't yet made connections with the literature or other perspectives and hasn't begun to question assumptions about student talking.
Dialogic reflection (as in conducting a dialogue with yourself) involves a greater stepping back from events and exploring alternative explanations and courses of action in context. The writing might show that you are making more connections with a range of perspectives from the literature and other sources, and you might begin to reflect back on earlier reflections and challenge earlier assumptions. This is characteristic of the critical reflection that we hope your Reflective portfolio would include, especially towards the end of the course. eg:
"After reading Ramsden (2003) and discussing Jane Stein-Parbury's video lecture, I've found I was making too many assumptions about students talking. I assumed that it meant that students weren't motivated or had short attention spans and that there wasn't much I could do about it apart from constantly stopping and telling them to be quiet. I now suspect that one reason why my students talk is that I've lost them - if they don't understand or they're bored then they just switch off and start talking. This might be why they always seem to talk the most when I'm trying to rush through things - especially at the end of lectures! Maybe my students also can't see the relevance of the material in the lecture, or they're overloaded and need some time to think about things. The buzz groups I used this week helped them to compare their understandings and helped me to know what they were thinking, and students were interested (and didn't talk so much afterwards!) so I should try to find more ways of achieving these things. Looking back on my earlier reflections and reading things like Ramsden (2003) and Biggs (2003), I've found that I now think differently about large lectures and I want to find more ways of helping students to understand the main ideas and grasp the bigger picture. I feel now that I understand the difference between Biggs' (2003) level 1 and level 3 theories of teaching Motivation isn't necessarily something that students bring with them or don't, as level 1 teaching would assume. What happens in the class can help them to understand and be motivated, or can make them switch off. Biggs' focus on what the students do being important really came home to me. I'm coming to agree that focusing on what students are learning is more important than focusing on what I'm doing although obviously what I do affects what they do. I don't think I can deal with student talking as a separate problem, and I suspect, like Jane said in the Teaching Matters video, that I need to interpret talking more contextually and find out from the students about what's going on."
Note that this writer has begun to challenge their assumptions and make use of different sources to inform their thinking. They are becoming aware of how their focus on teaching and learning is changing over time.
While reflective writing is expected, formality is not and there is no single right way to develop a Reflective portfolio. Portfolio entries can include disconnected paragraphs, stuck in post-it notes with annotations and thoughts to be followed up at a later date, printouts from UTSOnline etc, provided these are later tied together or complemented with more critical reflections. Some participants have preferred to develop parts of their "portfolio" in an exercise type book, others have used loose leaf pages, others have typed notes into a computer file and some have kept reflections with the materials from the subjects they teach. Others have tended to write reflective pieces in relation to each course module.
Whichever method you use, we suggest that you make a habit of writing something (however small) at least once each week, that you put dates on your reflections and that you keep them together in some way. Previous participants who have gained the most from Reflective portfolios tended to be those who brought "portfolios" to classes and carried something around to enable them note down relevant thoughts when they occurred. They then kept their writings together in some form so that they could re-read and reflect on their earlier writings, using this to reflect on their own learning. Reflecting progressively in this way will then provide a rich range of material to enable you to write your overall reflection on your learning.
Hatton, N. and Smith, D. (1995) Reflection in teacher education: towards definition and implementation. Teaching and Teacher Education, 11 (1), 33-49.
Summary of minimum course requirements
As a participant in this course, you need to meet the following requirements:
- engage in course learning activities. Activities are designed to assist you to meet the course learning objectives, so evidence of engagement is required unless you have negotiated to meet course requirements through equivalent prior or concurrent learning. Activities can be offered in a variety of alternative forms.
Engagement means at minimum:
participating in online activities within modules AND
preparing for and participating in scheduled face-to-face course sessions, OR
completing alternative independent learning activities and including relevant evidence in your portfolio.
- satisfactorily complete your reflective teaching portfolio, to provide evidence that you have met the course learning objectives.
We hope that you choose learning tasks which are useful to you in your current teaching and future academic career, and that you will find the course both enlightening and useful.