FLEX is a self-directed CPD scheme run by MMU’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). In my current role at the university I’m going to taking part in FLEX by reflecting on my professional development here on the blog. If you’re interested in finding out more about my teaching practice, read on!
Unit X is a ten-week curriculum delivered collaboratively across disciplines at Manchester School of Art. I have been tasked with gathering feedback and evaluating the success of the unit, and its impact on the professional development of staff and students.
As this is a new method of teaching within the school, my first task was to identify its place in the wider context of education research. This provided an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge of teaching theory, and collaborative teaching in particular, an area in which I needed some improvement.
I looked to online resources, and suggestions from colleagues, to direct my research, leading me to ‘rhizomatic learning’, a concept using Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome model of idea development as ‘interconnected and self-replicating… [with] no beginning or end’ (Cormier, 2011) to describe the learning process. The place of the community in judging and exchanging knowledge (Cormier, 2008) seemed to reflect the collaborative spirit of Unit X, and perhaps provide a method for analysing the networks developed through the unit.
In my view, the benefit of this approach is the expanding web of learning, in place of a one-way street from teacher to pupil, fostering an atmosphere of peer-learning, and an expanded definition of knowledge, with the result that knowledge gained is directly relevant to individual student experience, and readily applicable in their own practice, regardless of it’s value measured against a generic standard.
However, this brings the obvious challenge of how to evidence this knowledge in assessment of individual students. This is particularly tricky in Unit X, where the holistic experience of collaborative work needs to be assessed, including peer relationships, creative process and final outputs. The use of a reflective blog to assess goes someway to covering these aspects, although it can leave students feeling that their work is compromised by digital presentation.
Following this research I began to consider teaching and learning in terms of a web of connections between participants and knowledge, and develop ways to embed this thinking into evaluation of the Unit X module. One route I considered was the use of participatory mapping (Pathways to participation, 2010) to visualise relationships in the unit. However, due to time constraints in research interviews I haven’t been able to fully test this approach yet.
Although I haven’t been able to test this in Unit X research, I have found it fits very well with my personal practice, through which I emphasize the value of social interaction in learning. Considering teaching projects as rhizome maps has helped me to make sense of the dynamics and relationships involved, and better explain them to colleagues and participants.
Having an overview of these relationships provides qualitative feedback to sit alongside the more quantitative aspects of project evaluation, and gives a sense of the scope of the project, and relationships and knowledge embedded within it. In Unit X in particular this method of analysis allows us to examine the collaborative aspect of the project, and how it has affected student experience, in greater depth, through visualizing how students view their networks.
The next step for this research is to develop a way to embed this idea into formative student evaluation of 2015’s Unit X, perhaps through regular ‘mapping sessions’ with a group of students, charting their own progress through the unit.
Things to do…
- Develop method of participatory mapping to be used as workshop evaluation
- Liaise with colleagues to define ways to introduce rhizoanalysis into Unit X formative evaluation
- Continue discussions with colleagues to keep up to date and expand knowledge of pedagogical theory
Cormier, D. (2011). Rhizomatic Learning – Why we teach?. Available: http://davecormier.com/edblog/2011/11/05/rhizomatic-learning-why-learn/. Last accessed 2nd Feb 2015.
Cormier, D. (2008). Rhizomatic Education : Community as Curriculum. Available: http://davecormier.com/edblog/2008/06/03/rhizomatic-education-community-as-curriculum/. Last accessed 2nd Feb 2015.
Pathways through participation. (2010). Using participatory mapping to explore participation in three communities. Available: http://pathwaysthroughparticipation.org.uk/2010/06/28/using-participatory-mapping-to-explore-participation-report/. Last accessed 3rd Feb 2015.
Aheto & Cronje, S-P. K. & J. C., (2014). A rhizoanalysis of learning connections among higher education learners. In 4th International Conference on Design, Development & Research. Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa, 08 – 10 September 2014. Cape Town, South Africa: Design, Development & Research.
Emmel, N. (2008). Participatory Mapping: An innovative sociological method. Available: http://www.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/medialibrary/morgancentre/toolkits/2008-07-toolkit-participatory-map.pdf. Last accessed 3rd Feb 2015.