The Interest Groups and Study Days
Background and introduction
Why do we have Interest Groups and Study Days? Because the course as a whole is generic, which means that it concentrates on aspects of teaching which are common to most educational and training settings and subjects. But we know, of course, that there are many aspects of teaching particular subjects and skills which are distinctive (even “peculiar”) to those areas of practice.
In “training” school-teachers, it is relatively easy to have separate courses for teaching younger or older children, or the required National Curriculum subjects, because there are only twelve of them. But how many “subjects” are there in PCE? One of our Centres has 1,270 courses listed. Even if there are ten different courses in each subject area, that is 127 subjects. We can’t offer 127 separate courses, so we provide opportunities for you to get together with other people teaching in a similar area to talk over the challenges and opportunities and sheer practical techniques and resources which are distinctive to your area of practice.
There will not be 127 of these groups, but there will be between 30 and 40 of them, with up to about ten people in each. You may be the only teacher of radar technology, or flower arranging, or tree surgery or Arabic attending your particular centre, but it is highly likely that there are others in the 700+ students on the programme as a whole; we can use the critical mass of the whole course to find like-minded people and bring them together. So far we have always been able to find common interests to create useful groupings for everyone.
Interest groups are self-managing; after all you, the members, are the experts on your area of practice, and they are about learning from peers, rather than being “instructed”. Of course, the tutors provide a framework for their work, and will be available to help if needed, but they will not lead or routinely attend the groups.
Some of you may know that until this summer we had three-day residential Symposia, in which the Interest Groups were a core component. That model is no longer practicable, given the size of the programme, and so we have introduced non-residential study days. (The number of study hours remains the same.)
The Study Days have the great advantage that they are spaced out through the course, which makes it possible for Interest Group members to work on relevant material between meetings, and bring it to the meetings for discussion and development. You could, for example, discuss a particular new resource devised by one or more of you; other members could take it away and try it, and then you could evaluate and further develop it at the next meeting.
The Interest Group Agenda
Each Interest Group will be different, but they will operate within a shared framework.
Before the first meeting
Even before the groups have been constituted, you can start on your task at an individual level. Regardless of your particular subject or area of practice, you will be engaging with issues of threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge. Don’t worry if those jargon phrases do not yet mean anything to you! Your first task is to find out more about them; you will find an introduction to them on the website, with links to more substantial papers. Read those and start thinking about how they apply to your own practice.
At the first meetingCompare notes on your understanding of the ideas and the reading, and share;
- Do you think that your discipline (or area of practice) has threshold concepts?
- What are they?
- How can you distinguish between genuine understanding of these threshold concepts and a fake or simulated understanding?
- What sorts of teaching and learning experiences are most likely to lead to students properly grasping such threshold concepts?
(based on Bradbeer, 2005)Arising from that, identify areas for each of the group members to work on between sessions, and how they will report back (face to face at the next meeting, or perhaps on-line via BREO). Set up the group ground rules, and operational roles needed to make the process work.
You will need to submit a report on your plans to the programme leader within two weeks of the first meeting.
Maintain contact via BREO, sharing ideas and experience of using resources. Note that postings to the group’s area on BREO and responses to others’ posts may be used as evidence in the assessment for Professional Practice 2.
At subsequent meetings
- Receive progress reports on the allocated topics, and share ideas and feedback.
- Produce final presentations; the presentation content, expanded with notes of the discussion generated, may be submitted to satisfy the “project” requirement of Professional Practice 2:
A project on an aspect of teaching and or assessment in your particular area of practice forming the basis of a taught session (not merely a presentation) to a Special Interest Group at a study day or an on-line seminar to fellow-students, supported by a written commentary not exceeding 3,000 words.
This project will not by default be assessed separately. Students may negotiate with the tutor whether any of the Assessment Criteria may be addressed by the actual taught session. If that is the case, a video record or evidence from the on-line seminar will be required for moderation and quality assurance purposes.
(Note that the Action Research project which forms the basis of Module 6—Professional Development and Action Research, may be used as a component of this project)
Bradbeer J (2005) “Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge in the GEES disciplines” Planet No 3 Dec 2005 p 3
- An introductory paper from one angle
- An introductory paper coming from a different angle
- What we don't yet know about threshold concepts
- What is not a threshold concept
- Video material on threshold concepts
And one which relates the ideas to other aspects of learning and teaching
(read after the further reading above)
- Meyer and Land on Adam and Eve
- Is "Health and Safety" a threshold concept? (Discussion paper)
- (for more general further reading click here)
- Briefing paper for Second Study Day for Year 1
- The paper based on the Study Days presented at the international conference on Threshold Concepts held in Kingston Ontario 18-20 June 08. (Acrobat file)
- A March 2009 paper introducing the expanded idea of the threshold topics in the psycho-motor and affective domains as well, with links to slides.
- New! (April 2010)A further introductory session on video, including the plenary discussion of an exercise on identifying TCs.