Thursday, 24 May 2012


I was a little disappointed with the structure of the WIT Mentoring Module, with its primary focus on Peer-Observation. Many of us have engaged with Peer Observation over the past few years. Personally, I've been peer Observed twice and I've been asked to observe four or five times over the past 18 months. Peer Observation can be a valuable component of mentoring, a valuable reflective technique. But Peer Observation is not mentoring.

What is mentoring for me? I’ve been lecturing for over twelve years and I was heavily mentored at the early stages especially (thanks mostly to Thelma Chambers) in lecturing, course structure and design, writing curriculum, assessment and feedback.

Modularisation and increased expectations have changed what our students need to learn and
how our students learn. Our role as lecturers is changing all of the time – it’s now much
less about knowledge transfer and ‘teaching’ and much more about facilitating student
learning, reflection and critical thinking. We’re faced with more and more new ways of
doing our job, new tools, new learning environments, new potentials and challenges of our
media world.

And we’re faced with increasing numbers of part-time lecturing staff. As more experienced

‘staffers’, we’re expected to (informally) answer questions, give some guidance, facilitate
the part-timers assimilation onto our courses – this is a Mentoring role. At a more formal level, we understand that we’ve grown some expertise in the Teaching and Learning practice, through experience and through more formal T&L study. Many of our part-timer lecturers are coming to us as accomplished and experienced practitioners in our specific disciplines… But they’re also coming to us as hugely inexperienced lecturers. We understand that much of what we’ve learned (on lecturing, course design, assessment and feedback) can and should be passed onto more inexperienced colleagues. This too is a Mentoring role.

What I’m now discovering is that we have opportunities (or responsibilities) at an

Institute level too. Whether through short courses, Brown Bag presentations, workshops,
discussion groups or training courses, we act as leaders in our individual Institutes
– helping to introduce new software or hardware tools and environments (Prezi, UDK, Nuke or Maya for example), sharing best practice when it comes to T&L (doing workshops or
discussions in Group Work and Peer Assessment), or attempting to explain the potentials of
newer teaching environments to our lecturer peers (for example, explaining the Teaching and Learning benefits, potentials and challenges of using our Institute’s VLE). For me, these are Mentoring roles.

I understand that I’m fortunate to lecture in a small, progressive Institute, where we're granted a fair degree of autonomy. Perhaps we can expand these leadership roles to a national and a sectoral level too?  This is a Mentoring role too...

Andragogy Versus Pedagogy, Again...

As progressive constructivist or social constructivist lecturers, working with high degrees of autonomy on ‘cool’ courses in progressive Institutes of education, we’d all love to believe in andragogy.
But, as far as we can make out, andragogy is a disputed concept, with a pretty thin theoretical basis (feel free to correct me on this – point me to some decent ‘supportive’ literature on the subject). Also refer to my previous blog entry…

But wait… What differentiates young lads (on the early stages of a trades course for example) from mature students? Surely pedagogical methods are appropriate for one group, whereas andragogical methods are possible with the other group? Surely young fellas on practical courses learn in a different way to mature students? Surely pedagogy is appropriate with young fellas, whereas andragogy is necessary with more ‘adult’ learners?

Or… Maybe it just comes down to appropriate pedagogical approaches? In these cool and progressive times, behaviourism may be a dirty word but perhaps a more behaviourist approach is appropriate for some students? On courses where (as one observer put it) ‘crowd control is a major pedagogical component’, perhaps some constructivist pedagogical approaches might not be so appropriate?