Multimedia innovation in the philosophy of language

Authors

Abstract

It has been recently discussed that, film can be used to illustrate philosophical themes (Halper, 2005), as can filmmaking (Anderson, 2010). In this paper we describe and reflect on one module which combined both these approaches in the teaching of a core module in the philosophy of language. Our findings suggest that teachers need to be more cautious when using film in the classroom than one might initially think. We finish by recommending a number of ways of improving the use of film in philosophy classes.

By Andrew Fisher and Jonathan Tallant, University of Nottingham

Introduction

If asked to teach Plato in an interactive and exciting way then it is relatively simple to proceed — Plato’s work is, after all, written out in dialogue form with the parts specified. Likewise, it is relatively simple to see how we might teach ‘philosophy 101’ in an interesting and exciting fashion. A quick search of films, music and newspapers will generate an abundance of material to watch and listen to—all of which can facilitate discussion. Furthermore, students typically have views on, say, the rights of women to have an abortion, or whether we are dreaming; views which they are often willing to share with a group.

What though if we are tasked with teaching philosophy of language to relatively philosophically unsophisticated second year undergraduates? This higher level, more abstract area of teaching is ignored more often than not when discussing creative teaching and learning. How can this be taught in an interactive and exciting way?

This was the task that we set ourselves for the winter term 2010/2011. Specifically, our aim was to improve engagement with a core second year module discussing philosophy of language. We assumed throughout — and have continued to assume in this paper — that we would be successful if we could see students discussing the key material with their peers and contributing in some way to the group. (Such an assumption is grounded in findings in the wider literature, e.g. (Zhau 2004). )

Further, although we don’t defend this here, we assumed that engagement is directly linked to authentic learning (Chick 1974; Newall 1999). Thus, when presenting our results, although we do discuss the grades attained by students with whom we were working, maximizing their grades was not our Key Performance Indicator. We believe — though again do not defend — that if students engage in discussion and report that they enjoy these sessions then in turn this may lead student to deeper understanding, resulting in better results and overall a better student experience (Brewester and Fager 2000: 4 talk about this as the benefit of ‘intrinsic motivations’). So, then, how do you teach the philosophy of language in an engaging and exciting way?

To answer this, we pooled our various experiences of teaching philosophy and constructed something unique. We ended up running a course which required groups of students to make short films, and to use those films to facilitate a group presentation.

In what follows we explain the thinking which led to this way of teaching philosophy of language, highlight some headline results, and finally we reflect on how and whether such an approach could be utilized for other disciplines within a student’s degree. Our main conclusion is that more thought needs to go into the use of film and ways of facilitating discussion.

Presentations yes – but not really

Students like the idea of giving group presentations

“I think the idea of group presentations were essentially a good idea, and I personally found it beneficial, as I put a lot of effort into the reading for the presentation, and found this helpful for seminars and the essay questions.”

“Presentations in a module are a good method of learning”

“Overall v.good idea, especially in the sense that less involved members finally have to step up.”

And the general advantage of group work has been well document, e.g. Walker (2001). As facilitators we could see the obvious benefits of group presentations. But, we identified a number of barriers which typically hinder group presentations.

  1. Students may be nervous about presenting in person. “Presentations appeared to be purposeless sadism…” “They [presentations] terrify me. I don’t like to talk in front of people.” This impairs their ability to engage with the material. Nervous students may skim-over material about which they are uncertain and may not put matters as precisely as they might in a less intimidating environment.
  2. Students may fail to prepare for a seminar. If the presenting student(s) are not well prepared, then the session gets off to a very bad start. If there is no preparation at all — or worst case scenario the presentation group doesn’t turn up – then this can threaten to derail the entire seminar.
  3. The use of presentations can be counterproductive as the student may well see learning as a series of finite unrelated tasks Once they have ‘learned their lines’ and completed the performance, they can forget all about what their leaning means and how it might integrate with other areas of their degree.  We believe that this would facilitate a wholly negative approach to the task; an approach colorfully dubbed ‘bulimic education’ (for discussion, see, Lea et al (2003))
  4. Presentations might be viewed as analogous to a theatre performance, where the group performs, the audience and seminar leader listen quietly, clap politely and leave. However, this means the vitally important role of feedback and interaction is lost.

Despite these challenges we feel that the student’s preference for group presentations is well placed and the underlying approach of collaborative and active learning is correct. So we would the students to give a group presentations but in a way which meet these four challenges.

However this wasn’t a comparative study. We were not looking to compare the effect of presentations in general against the use of video-presentations. Both authors were satisfied that the problems identified above were sufficient to persuade us to not engage in general group presentation work.

The question we wanted to explore was whether or not the measurable benefits of this means of creating presentations generated results (in terms of the quality of student experience and grades) that were preferable to those generated by seminars in which there were no presentations. As a consequence, one way to think of this study is as trying to answer the following. Students don’t like group presentations but something seems beneficial about group work. So, would the way of doing group work we propose help enjoyment and engagement and would it improve their grades?

Film yes….but not really

Both authors had used film extensively in their teaching, yet the way film was used – basically in a ‘chalk and talk’ model – seemed to be in conflict with the first aim as stated above, viz. the need to create collaborative and active learning. The second aim then was to see if we could capture the attractive elements of film without simply playing into this passive model of learning (for a discussion of ‘chalk and talk’, ‘surface and deep’ and ‘passive and active’ models see for example, Biggs (1999))

Tutorial discussions… good if you can get them

The authors have used and are aware of many ways to ‘kick start’ discussions in seminars: mind-maps, film (the use of parts of films to start discussion is usefully discussed in Halper 2005) computer quizzes, thought experiments, drama. There are considerable benefits to the students if and when this works. However, it’s harder to ‘kick start’ discussion about the highly abstract topics in the philosophy of language.

It was also clear that the best and most fruitful discussions in tutorials arose when students felt they owned (e.g. Stefanou et al (2004)) what they were saying, and when it was coming from a reflective stance (see, e.g.  Stockero (2008)). So the third element we wanted was a way of ‘kick starting discussion on the philosophy of language which would lead to the student’s feeling an ownership of the material discussed’.

Put it all together and what have you got?

The plan was to ask student to create their own films on specific questions regarding specific topics in philosophy of language. They would then ‘present’ their own film which would in turn act as the catalyst for discussion in a seminar, where the non-presenting students would have chance to ask questions about the film and thus engage in a direct way with the topic under the spotlight.

Note that we gave students various examples of the way in which they might complete the task. For instance, they might produce a visual aid—perhaps a flip-chart—and then record themselves talking, whilst the camera stayed focused on the chart. Equally, students who were very reluctant to appear might create a whole film of engaging pictures with narration. Students were also told that a dramatic performance—such as an enactment of a useful example—would be fine, just so long as this was then used to help answer the question.

Yet it was key for us that students were not instructed as to how they should set about dividing up the work, or what format their work should take. We wanted to be as permissive as possible with regards to the way in which these were done in order to let the students be creative with the equipment (an account of the benefits of such an approach is demonstrated well by Anderson (2010)). In this sense, we hoped to help them take ownership of the project and be more reflective on their strengths and ways they learn.

Students were told that the presentation questions would closely mirror the exam questions and that they would receive a formative mark. These marks would be awarded to the group as a whole, rather than any individual member.

We followed good ethical practice throughout the project. We fully explained to the students our rationale for approaching the module in the way we did; we only shared video with the explicit consent of the students involved; the skills audits and interviews were all anonymous; we explained that the data collected and any comments they chose to make could be published and, as such, could end up (albeit anyonymized) in the ‘public domain’.

We now briefly explain how we hoped that this would allow us to meet the four challenges.

Student nerves

We hoped that by allowing the students record and re-record the films in advance would enable their presentations to be freed from the deleterious effects of nerves.

Lack of preparation

Students were told that recording presentations was a requirement of the course. There was no punishment for failing to meet this requirement, as we did not want any student engaging in a cost/benefit analysis and deciding that the punishment might conceivably be preferable to doing the work.

Because all the films had to be submitted a few days before the presentation, this gave the module convener the chance to chase recalcitrant groups and collect a presentation from them (or make some other arrangement) well in advance of the seminars. This also meant that whoever was leading the classes that week could watch the film before hand and subsequently give targeted, informed and useful feedback and, if necessary, help steer discussion.

Reflecting on learning

We aimed to encourage reflection via three routes. First, we immediately questioned the presenting group after their presentation to ask them how they thought it went; second, we asked the students not presenting to provide feedback, this was valuable because it was from their peers. Third, because the presentation questions mirrored the exam questions we hoped to make it clear to students that their work on the presentation was a stepping stone to their work for the final exam and would repay serious reflection.

Feedback

Students received three types of feedback on their work. First, anonymously from their peers; second, by the seminar leader (either verbally or in writing) and third, the students would see their own presentations. In our experience, students can be very critical of their own work and by providing a safe and supportive space within which they could review it, we took the view that students would feedback on their own work and, relating to (3) reflect upon how they might improve it.

Alongside solving the problems outlined in (1)-(4) we hoped that the project would have other positive-effects, including greater student collaboration and an increased sense of community; improved marks, a greater sense of involvement with the material, a sense that the module was training them for other modules in their degree — as well as in future employment.

The general hypothesis we were looking to test was whether or not the use of student-made films would solve the problems student report with group presentations more generally.

Headline Results[ii]

We gathered both qualitative and quantitative data from this project. We were particularly interested in how students found this form of presentation. We gave out questionnaires with a ten point likert scale with 1 being ‘totally disagree’, 5 being ‘neutral’ and 10 being ‘totally agree’. The response rate was 68% pre-presentation and 47% post-presentations. The full list of questions and rounded averages can be found in Appendix 1. We also ran a focus group where we pursued some of the themes mentioned in the ‘open comments’ box on the questionnaire. Some of the main findings are as follows.

Some Positive Outcomes

  • Only five students cited the technology as a barrier to running the presentations.
  • A large number (49%) agreed or strongly agreed that constructing the presentations would be an excellent way of learning the subject
  • A large number (60%) agreed or strongly agreed that constructing the presentations was an excellent way of learning the subject.
  • The marks for this core philosophy of language module have improved. Declaring a causal connection between the films and the mark increase is not sensible. The content has been tweaked from 2009-10 to 2010-11 and different teaching assistants were used. Nonetheless, the mark increase is striking, with the median mark changing from 59 in 2009-10 to 61 in 2010-11. Median marks for other modules appear to have remained stable. (In addition, the data in Table 1 of Appendix 3 suggests a steady ‘trickle up’ effect from marks of around 50).
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Some Negative Outcomes

  • Student commented that because there were no grades or credits attached to the assessment they ‘couldn’t see the point.’
  • A number of students commented on the large amount of time the film production took.

There were also three further results that we found especially interesting and surprising. First, we would have thought that the students would typically agree with this student:

“Well thought out and supported — makes a change from more basic and nerve-wracking presentations”

However, the reverse view seemed to be predominant:

“They seem terrifying and should be optional! Cruel and unusual!”

“They terrify me”

“Unnecessary to video — will be embarrassing to watch self.”

“It may seem that recording the presentations prior to the seminar would take the pressure off. I think it actually puts the pressure on more.”

“Don’t mind doing presentations, just not very happy about recording it and having to watch myself in front of a group.”

“I think presentation are good but I don’t like the video idea…I’m a shy person but would much rather present than be on a video”

“I would prefer not to be on film…Very happy to do straight oral presentations”

“I think it would be easier to give the presentation’s live in the seminar, instead of recording them.”

“Giving a presentation is bad enough in terms of embarrassment, but there’s few things worse than watching yourself back on video”

So, although the quantitative results suggest that the presentations have helped students with their learning, the assumption which we made regarding the use of film as a way of decreasing nerves seems misplaced. A significant number of students were very nervous about using film and in fact a number explicitly stated that they would have been less nervous about simply standing up in front of the group and talking.

Second, a large number of students were worried about their peers letting them down.

“…it seems risky because you could end up in a bad group (people who don’t want to put in effort or don’t understand the topic)”

“[My main concern is that]… people won’t pull their weight…”

“My only issue with group work is that it is only useful if other members of your group are pro-active and put as much into it as you. Both in making the presentation and in giving feedback.”

“Beware the free riders who manage to put in minimal work but benefit from a good grade. Where is the justice in that? In the real world people like that, i.e. not team players, would get fired. So why should hard working people have to try and develop skill to deal with them?”

“Our group only had two members so the work was a lot and the people who aren’t involved seem to get no punishment which makes it unfair. It should have been graded and counted so that people didn’t skip it, and would be more incentive to work harder”

“Not allowing friends to form their own groups is a good idea. Self-governance of the group through altruistic co-operation can’t necessarily be trusted. (People got away with doing nothing, very little one can do as a peer).

“I worry about the lack of enthusiasm other others”

Reflecting on this issue suggests a lack of understanding of how learning takes place. The hostility to collaborative learning was driven, we suspect, from a passive approach to learning. That is, there is a sense of there being ‘right answers’ which have to be bestowed by someone in authority. In contrast, the group of their peers may simply perpetuate and generate falsehoods.

In contrast we take the pedagogical benefit of collaborative learning to involve each student reflecting and developing their own views and throwing them ‘into the mix’; they become active in their learning (Norman (2004)). This process in turn will find the student ‘weeding out’ those claims they judge to be unhelpful or false but crucially also being open to changing and strengthening through this process.

Our sense that this ‘give me the right answer!’ view was prevalent among a substantial portion of the students on the module was further emphasized by conversations had with students about how they recorded the films. Most typically, the model adopted was that students would work either on their own, or with another member of the group to act as the camera operator, to record a single take. Indeed, there seemed to be a general preference among the students to isolate themselves when recording, as far as was practical.  The camera acted like a barrier rather than a facilitator to group discussion/collaboration.

One might take the view, instead, that the hostility to group work is to be explained by the fact that group work introduces a genuine and substantial series of complexities and problems that may effect one’s grade. It is easier to insulate oneself from these effects by working individually than it is to broach these complexities head-on.

We do not deny, of course, that such factors are involved in this case. Indeed, we think that this explanation of the behavior is probably accurate. Our point, however, is that if one took the view—as we do—that the positive effects that group work have on learning are substantial, then the complexities involved would be worth tackling. The grade, in this case, was merely formative, so there was not substantial academic pressure to get the right answer.

A further surprising result, relayed to us largely via discussions with students, was the difficulty in getting the groups to meet.

“…its harder to contact everyone, organize everyone…”

“Good idea, just make sure we have sufficient time to meet.”

“I found myself doing a lot of the organizing of meetings and people. In other groups people didn’t even bother to respond to emails or turn up.”

In all four rounds of presentations there were 2-3 groups (out of the 7 required to present in each round) who claimed to have had genuine difficulty in finding the time to meet. This surprised us since the average commitment of a Single Honours Philosophy student is approximately 9 hours per week of class time, with individual study making up the rest of the workload. The majority of students were studying on modules with very similar timetables and so it is unclear to us why this situation arose. Nonetheless, students repeatedly claimed that there was ‘simply no time’ available for them to schedule meetings with the rest of their groups in order to record the films.

We speculate there are two possible reasons for this, though we also note this as an interesting topic for future research. First, students were simply disorganized and/or prioritized extra-curricular activities ahead of this aspect of their study. On several occasions it was reported that groups were struggling because a group member had left the campus to visit family or friends, or because a student was failing to respond to email. We think this perhaps overly pessimistic. The students are, after all, second years and have been organizing their own timetables, meeting essay deadlines, exam schedules etc for a significant amount of time. In some cases it may also be true that, once the initial teaching timetable was fixed, students filled up the remainder of their timetable with other regularly activities that would have prevented them from meeting up. However, no student who raised this concern mentioned this as a problem.

Second, what maybe more likely is that students lack the experience of having to engage in, and organize themselves to take part in, synchronous communication; where the barrier here is primarily the synchronous communication rather than the ‘nuts and bolts’ of meeting. Aside from the 9 hours of classes per week, student time is self-directed; their personal and professional communication is typically asynchronous (emails, texts and social media all permit communication without the student needing to engage themselves at the time of receipt), and increasingly the recording of lectures (audio or film) means that students need engage with material only at the time of their choosing.

Because the project required the students to come together in a physical space, at particular times, and discuss their views, we speculate that this was something of a problematic activity requiring, as it did, specific knowledge to be absorbed and reflected upon by a specific time, and also recalled in a very particular fashion. In particular, we speculate that synchronous communication puts the student ‘at risk’ — puts them on the spot – in a way which asynchronous communication doesn’t.   So in contrast to Allam (2008) who says:

“So, what is it that makes the use of filmmaking in the curriculum such a positive and successful strategy? My belief is that it works well in the academic environment because it calls on students to use skills not typically required in academic study, and this is novel and exciting. It frees up the intellect and the imagination, offering new styles of working, and requires practical skills as well.”(283: Emphasis added)

We agree that filmmaking used in this way calls on ‘skills not typically required in academic study’ but that it is for this reason that they are not exciting and not freeing.

Further Reflections

The majority of students seem to have taken something from the exercise, even though it did not work out as well as we had hoped.

“They do help understanding – essentially a good idea”

“I found the presentations relatively useful but think they work best in an informal setting”

“They were good as they forced us to talk in seminars and to others in the group. I like the fact that you’re doing something different with standard philosophy”

“This is the best way of doing presentations (all things considered)”

“I think these presentations were essentially a good idea, and I personally found it beneficial…”

Of course, not all were behind the idea, with a few being decidedly against the whole approach:

“Caused a lot more stress than it brought gain. Introducing presentations [into] a philosophy degree would be a HUGE mistake”

“Please scrap them!”

“Being videoed is not a very good idea. There is no discussion, it’s just reading or reciting stuff onto a recording….Video’s need to be scrapped.”

Creativity in the production of the projects varied, with a number of groups choosing to do ‘straight to camera’ pieces.[iii] Other groups were more adventurous, with models of production including: role-playing interviews, with some students playing the roles of ‘subject experts’ and another playing the role of interviewer; Prezi’s[iv]  that were narrated and a stream of images with a narration recorded over the top. Thus, we are happy that the project had some positive impact upon the students.

However, the strength of the emotional aversion to appearing on camera is a genuine stumbling block.[v] This is especially pressing given our intended focus on the student experience of the process of filming and presenting. Our hypothesis that using film instead of live performances would reduce nerves, was shown to be false. With the lack of a summative incentive, it now seems clear to us that not all students will be happy to engage in the project. There is, therefore, a temptation to make any future deployment of this kind of activity carry with it a summative component. This runs the risk of discouraging students from taking a risk—both with the mode of presentation and the philosophical content. But relatively few groups did take a genuine risk and so we speculate that adding the summative element may actually assist with the creative process. As one student noted:

“I think in general, presentations are an excellent idea: in practice in this instance, it just was not helpful for me to read out on camera the notes I had already made. Nothing was added to my understanding by this process.”

We agree with the student that reading out their notes in isolation does not carry with it any benefits. We would hope that, were a summative mark given, students would reflect more upon the work to be read out—and not merely rely on notes made in isolation from others—and engage more creatively in the task.

A second issue that we think would need to be addressed is whether to make an effort to organize specific times and rooms for students to record their presentations. It would be reasonably straightforward to use the University timetabling service to make rooms available to the groups at specific times. We worry, of course, that this removes from the task an important element—the developing and testing of organizational skills—that we would prefer to leave in. In fact this might go to the very heart of the question ‘what are universities for?’ Nonetheless, if we were to run the project again this is something that we would consider. This would also help us further investigate and test our hypothesis that synchronous communication was a major stumbling block in this project.

Third, we think that in order to move away from group members working in isolation from one another, it would be beneficial to include another stage in the process. Prior to the recording of the films, students could be asked to draft a collective summary of the whole presentation, explaining how each part connects to the others, and be required to all sign-off, at the point of completion of this form, that they are happy that with what is going to be said, by their group members, in answer to each question. Although there are clearly ways in which this could be circumvented (students could lie on the form; one group member could be assigned the task of producing the summary—and so on) it would require students to at least reflect in more detail upon the issue of engaging in group work.  This would then highlight nicely to the staff member, cases where students are isolated in the process or where groups could be more creative.

Fourth, looking at more successful examples of collaborative learning through filmmaking reveals a common trend. These examples set ‘open-ended’ tasks. So for example, Anderson writes:

[The students] could either give a presentation about philosophical themes in a film we hadn’t covered in class, or they could create a short film that raised a philosophical question….) (2010:2)

Or Allan (2008) on discussing a project with English and Hispanic Studies students describes the task:

In both cases, the students studied texts and filmed representations of the literature, and were then required to produce films of a short section of text. (282)

This contrasts with the very specific questions set in our project. This suggests that in some way the overly prescriptive task we set may have been hindering the creative and collaborative aspects we required. So, rather than providing support through clear distinct questions, we suggest further use of film should be accompanied by a ‘lighter touch’ in terms of the guidance provided. This would require more of a ‘leap of faith’ from the member of staff running the module regarding the student’s imaginative and creative abilities. However, setting a question or perhaps even a topic, as open as ‘Tell us what you think of X?’ might free the students enough to express their creativity, increase collaboration and give them greater ownership of their work.

Fifth, running this project again would, we believe, require further reflection regarding managing the expectations of the students. More creative effort — and more staff time — would be required to uncover and challenge the models of learning that the students are bringing to the module. If, for example, one of the stumbling blocks is a student’s aversion to face-to-face communication, what is the best way of managing this and meshing it with the desired outcomes of the project? Or, if the student feels objectified and shy about appearing on film how this might be directly and explicitly addressed?

One advantage of re-running the project would be that there is now a set of films that students have created. If permission could be gained, then these could be used in their first seminars as a way of encouraging discussion and reflection about the very process of learning in this way.

Furthermore, other — relatively simple – things could be implemented, such as peer-to-peer marking. Recall, one of the key worries students raised with the project was that the amount of time required was amplifying the worry the students had about ‘free riders’: people in the group who just turned up and got marks, and didn’t put in any preparation (for discussion of ‘free-riders’ and associated issues with group work see Burdett 2003) .

Peer-to-peer marking could be used so that each member of the group would be asked for their view of the contribution of the other members of the group, and marks could be distributed accordingly. Or self-evaluation might be used to combat some of these issues. Both these approaches have been shown to greatly enhance the student experience and learning outcomes of group work (see Loddington 2008 for survey of findings) and would then put in place the foundation for creative filmmaking which could be used to facilitate discussion and hopefully a deeper understanding of a tough and rather abstract topic.

All of which raises the question: would we do it again? We would probably not do it again in the same way. The effort expended editing the material and dealing with the problems that arose, was much too great to be repeated unless more tangible evidence of a large-scale improvement could be recorded. We estimate that it added 5-7 hours of work per week, which is not a sustainable addition to existing workloads. This suggests that further research needs to be done to try and ascertain whether the correlation between the improvement in marks and the use of the video technology is a causal one. This makes it very hard to tell whether or not there was deeper reflection upon the material, encouraged by the creation of the films, and whether or not the large amounts of feedback helped to improve student marks.

Disappointingly, then, the results seem a little ambiguous. Our hypothesis, was that this sort of project might encourage deeper reflection and that this, in conjunction with the large amount of feedback, would lead to an improvement in student marks. Although there is some improvement in the marks, described above, there is not enough to be confident that the films have played a significant role in this.

In any case, as we have indicated in the paper, there are various ways in which the activities could be modified in order to generate better engagement and an improved pay-off. Moreover, this project has raised some more general questions about the nature and role of education and the type of engagement and abilities students have/can be expected to have when engaging with multi-media at University.

Author Biographies

Dr Andrew Fisher is an associate professor in philosophy, and director of teaching for the faculty of arts at the University of Nottingham. He completed a PhD in philosophy at the University of St Andrews.

Dr Jonathan Tallant is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Nottingham. Before Nottingham he held a temporary post at Leeds and before that he completed a PhD in philosophy at Durham University

References

Allam, Claire. 2008. “Creative activity and its impact on student learning – issues of implementation” in Innovations in Education and Teaching International. 45: 3, 281 – 288

Anderson, Nathan. 2010. “Filmmaking in the Philosophy Classroom: Illustrating the Examined Life” in Teaching Philosophy 33:4,  375-397

Biggs, John (1999) “What the Student Does: teaching for enhanced learning” in Higher Education Research & Development, 18:1, 57-75

Brewster, Cori & Fager, Jennifer. 2000. Increasing Student Engagement and Motivation: From Time-on- Task to Homework, (http://educationnorthwest.org/webfm_send/452) 

Burdett, Jane. (2003). “Making Groups Work: University Students’ Perceptions” in International Education Journal 4: 3, 177-191

Halper, Edward. 2005. “Freshman Seminar Film Courses” in Teaching Philosophy 28: 4, 351-365

Kleiman, Paul. 2008. “Towards transformation: conceptions of creativity in higher education” in Innovations in Education and Teaching International 45: 3, 209-217

Lea, Susan,   Stephenson, David  & Troy, Juliette ­­(2003). “Higher Education Students’ Attitudes to Student-centered Learning: Beyond ‘educational bulimia’?” in Studies in Higher Education 28: 3, 321-334

Loddington, Steve. 2008. Peer assessment of group work: a review of the literature. http://webpaproject.lboro.ac.uk/files/WebPA_Literature%20review%20.pdf

Stefanou, Candice et al. 2004. “Supporting Autonomy in the Classroom: Ways Teachers Encourage Student Decision Making and Ownership” in Educational Psychologist, 39:2, 97 – 110 Stockero, Shari. 2008.

“Using a video-based curriculum to develop a reflective stance in prospective mathematics teachers” in Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 11:5, 373-394.  

 

Appendix 1

The grid outlines the structure of the course, including the topic of the Video Presentations (VPS). Under the grid, we give the questions students were asked to answer.

course structure table

Presentation questions:

  • Frege: In Frege’s terms, how should we understand the difference between sense and reference? Why does Dummett think that this way of thinking about sense has led to problems? How does Dummett suggest we resolve these problems? What is your verdict on Dummett’s suggestion?
  • Russell and Kripke: In Russell’s terms, how should we understand names and referring terms? Why does Kripke think that this way of thinking about names has led to problems and what does he propose instead? How does Evans argue against Kripke? What is your verdict on Evans’ argument?
  • Quine and KW: Using Quine’s arguments, how can we argue in favour of meaning skepticism? What is KW’s argument in favour of meaning skepticism? What is the best argument against meaning skepticism? What is your verdict on this argument and meaning skepticism in general?
  • Grice and Davidson: According to Grice, what is meaning? How does Blackburn extend and refine Grice’s view? How does Davidson account for the meaning of a sentence? What is your verdict on the two theories?

 

Appendix 2

Statements used in questionnaires.[vii]

  1. I think that working with a group will help me to learn about the philosophical concepts involved and will help deepen my understanding
  2. I think that constructing the presentation will help me learn about the philosophical concepts involved and will help deepen my understanding.
  3. I think that engaging in the discussion that follows the presentation will help me learn about the philosophical concepts involved and will help deepen my understanding
  4. I think that the feedback from those not presenting will help me learn about the philosophical concepts involved and will help deepen my understanding.
  5. I think that fedeback from my seminar leader will help me lean about the philosophical concepts involved and will deepen my understanding.
  6. I think that having the presentation questions closely mirror the exam questions is a good idea.
  7. I expect to learn from other members in the group.
  8. I’m most apprehensive about the group work
  9. I’m most apprehensive about making the video
  10. I’m most apprehensive about responding to questions
  11. Overall, I am in favor of the presentations as they have been set out.
  12. I think part of my philosophy degree should include presentations
  13. I think I have the skills to work well in a group
  14. I think that the skills develop through the group presentations will help me in other modules
  15. I think that the skills developed through the group presentations will help me in other modules
  16. I think that the skills developed through the group presentation will help me when I leave university

Rounded averages from the Likert scale where 1 is strongly agree, 5 is neutral and 10 is strongly disagree.

statements used in questionnaires table

Appendix 3

Table 1: Marks by grade band:

Note: students who submitted only one piece of assessment (students who only took the exam and not the coursework, or vice versa) have been excluded from the analysis, as have students who submitted no work at all.

marks by grade band

Table 2

Excluding the same students, the median marks (rounded to the nearest decimal point) are:

module mark table

i. We’re very grateful to Rhona Sharpe and a referee for BeJLT for comments on a previous draft.

ii. Data on student response is listed in Appendix 2; data on the marks, as compared to marks in previous years on the 2nd year philosophy of language module are listed in Appendix 3.

iii. For discussion of the different conceptions of creativity present in the University Student, see (Klieman (2008)).

iv. See http://www.prezi.com

v. One suggestion then would be to further stress the fact that they don’t actually have to appear on camera!

vi. If a reading has a small ‘e’ after it, it was available electronically through the library. A small ‘RP’ indicates that the material was in the reading pack at the end of the module guide

vii. These were adapted after presentations by simply changing the tense.

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This paper has been subject to a double blind peer review by at least two reviewers. For more information about our double blind review process please visit: http://bejlt.brookes.ac.uk/about/double-blind-review/

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