From the Mind of Mikel

A University of Worcester Film Studies Blog

Film Studies Pedagogy

It occurred to me after writing my first post on this blog, that focusing discussion specifically on issues effecting pedagogy & film studies might be an interesting project to undertake.

Earlier today, via Twitter, I had an exchange with an acquaintance who had had a very bad teaching day. From what I deduced by our exchange (and this is one of those “Twitter friends” who one only knows through the site – I don’t even know their real name), this was either an ABD or newly awarded PhD who found themselves in the much-too-common position of starting their careers doing sessional/per-course/hourly paid lecturing positions at a variety of educational institutions to try and make something resembling a living wage. I didn’t have any advice for this person, although I did offer to put him/her in touch with my father-in-law who is something of an expert in HE/FE staff development.

It then occurred to me that I know a number of new PhDs and doctoral students finishing up their degrees about to enter this horrid job market. I’m sure I’m not alone in being disappointed with the “staff development” assistance most universities offer – those programmes/offices are usually pretty cash-strapped and overly dominated by science people who have little experience with teaching in the Humanities, let alone in film studies.  Staff-development offices and staff, to give them their due, need to address a wide-range of teaching experiences/contexts and they couldn’t possibly know all of the issues which effect subjects like ours.

I’m certainly not setting myself up as any kind of pedagogical expert or guru for new PhDs in film studies pedagogy; quite the opposite in fact. I’m always more than happy to share my own experiences of what works and what doesn’t. And in that context, most often what I find works is at odds with the “prevailing wisdom” of the Quality Assurance mavens and staff-development folk. And don’t even get me started on “Peer Observation” approaches! I hate to admit how “traditional” my approach to teaching is, but it is what most students seem to respond to.

I may not be an expert in this field, but I have a number of friends, acquaintances and colleagues who, I’m sure, collectively could be useful to new academics. Share our wisdom and experience. It’s even possible we could all learn some new tricks, old dogs though we may be. To repeat, I’m not an expert in film studies pedagogy, but I do want to host this discussion.

Hence this blog.

So, friends, colleagues, relations, acquaintances: who’s with me?

4 thoughts on “Film Studies Pedagogy

  1. Glenn Ward on said:

    Fractional, hourly paid, ‘Associate tutor’ etc etc teaching is an utterly horrible situation to be put in: I’ve finally got out of it after far too many years of being exploitated. This through a combination of luck and proactive UCU representatives – and despite the resistance of my institution (especially purportedly socialist middle managers) to giving me anything like a proper job. On a different note, my experience is that you have to spout pedagogybabble a lot (in meetings) if you want to get taken seriously. The bureaucratic powers also require increasing standardisation (under the guise of parity) and are terrified of the National Student Survey. But I believe students welcome the different styles, approaches and personalities of lecturers – so you have to find what works for you, as long as your paperwork and pebabble ticks the boxes. A blog like this is a great idea – I could have done with something like it (or Mikel’s dad-in-law) years ago.

  2. Laura Jones on said:

    This looks great Mikel thanks.
    My thoughts from watching others are that those who teach using different (or non-traditional) styles, structures and methods, and also experiment successfully, do so because they deliver according to their personality and only do so when they feel comfortable enough with what they are doing (not necessarily completely confident but enough to be able to contain and manage any problems during the lesson and be able to handle it if it is unsuccessful). From a project we did in the summer students argued that they normally don’t mind they way they learn, whether in seminars or lectures, as long as staff made it clear, and appeared to know themselves, why that approach had been taken and shared their reflections on how it had gone with students, particularly when not so successful. I remember as a student there was nothing I found more frustrating than a lack of signposts and not having any idea why we were doing something and feeling unable to see why we were doing it that way. If we are always planning schemes of work / modules / courses based on foundational priciples and with intended learning outcomes in mind then we should be able to explore new methods and adapt others while still achieving the same outcome and be able to respond to exterior or interior reviewing processes using the same language (pedagogybabble-great term) and within the frameworks we are judged on. Surely benefits of variation (testing student knowledge with different types of assessments, teaching using different methods and challenging them in different contexts) are that we will be more inclusive to students with varied learning styles, ensure that they really have understood what they have been taught, engaged, and are able to appropriate that knowledge for many purposes thus making them more employable, and continue to stimulate them even if they have previously studied the content elsewhere or are students who do a lot of reading around the subject. GO TEAM HUMANITIES!

  3. Mikel J. Koven on said:

    Thanks for those comments Glenn & Laura. Laura, you raised an interesting point: (putting my own spin on what you said) that students object when we cannot justify why the teaching style is as it is.
    I have a feeling some of my colleagues get bogged down with the pedagogybabble (maybe that should be the name of this blog!) and alter their style of teaching for pseudo-political correctness, but could not justify *why* they are teaching the subject this way other than someone else recommended that they do “based on the research done” (possibly my favourite cliche I love to loathe!).

  4. Interesting, particularly as I noticed a number of recent job calls specifically asked for people who had proof of innovative teaching styles. This is fine, but then people often see it as an unorthodox approach that focuses on razzmatazz rather than rubric, or will actually see the two as absolute polar opposites.

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