Saturday, 12 May 2012

CCEH: Development Ideas

1.      Existing learning activities critically reviewed – what works and what doesn’t.

I had an hour long conversation with Alexa as we took on the challenge of combining “Social Anthropology for Occupational Therapists” and “Concepts in Health”. We completed this activity in March, and luckily I recorded the session so I have had time to go back and listen to it again, reflecting on our discussion. We thought a good place to start would be to first describe to each other what our courses involved and the type of activities we employ to help students engage with key learnings.

Concepts in Health
What we discovered was for Alexa’s course, the title only explained a small part of her course. A large focus of this course is in the area of disabilities and how students are required to understand this perspective from reading an autobiography by a person who has a disability. They are also required to then use this autobiography and explore key health strategies (such as the disability strategy) and how this may help or inhibit quality of life for them.

The other key learning for me is the pace of this paper. This course has traditionally been a ‘5 point’ paper so its pace is slower and the learning focus has been an in-depth exploration into the area of disability.  The main delivery is blended through F2F tutorials where the students apply what they are reading in their autobiography each week to a health strategy and this is supplemented through Moodle packages that students can work through at their own pace.

At the end of the course is an 80% major assessment where they bring this all together based on the earlier submission of their plan (20%). This activity is an individual exercise.

For Alexa it seemed that the deeper understanding of people who have a disability is one of the key strengths of this paper. The practical reality of see how a health strategy impacts on us all, but in particular, people who have a disability is another area of key learning.

Social Anthropology for Occupational Therapists
The purpose of this paper is to look at how Social Anthropology can help us better understand people and culture in the context of OT. OT as a discipline is informed by other key disciplines such as Psychology, Kinesiology, and  Biology. Social Anthropology makes up one of these informing disciplines.  The main focus is understanding people and culture in New Zealand with a particular focus on more recent historical events post-Treaty of Waitangi. Historical events up to Treaty of Waitangi is covered in the first part of the course as we prepare students for their noho marae.

When we looked at existing areas for Social anthropology – there is a wide range of activities- they fall into :
·         Hui – Group activities including noho marae and Treaty of Waitangi workshop. Individual activity where each student looks at mihi. Currently not assessed
·         Online discussions – working through self directed packages via Moodle - individual.
·         Assignment 1- Activity is in groups, but the assignment is produced individually.
·         Assignment 2 – Activity is individual and assignment is produced individually
·         Final Presentation – Individual presentations.

The pace is very different in this paper. It is demanding as we cover a wide range of material, however all the assessments link to each other (like Alexa’s).
What works well is that we engage students in a range of debates and topics that allows them to gain skills and knowledge in how to become culturally capable OTs. They can clearly articulate the difference between culture, ethnicity, nationality in relation to people and to location (workplace/ groups). They also have to use reflective skills in looking at what they bring to the paper.

In terms of what ‘doesn’t work’, both Alexa and I have redeveloped our papers recently so that feedback from studnets about 'what hasn't work' has been 'worked on'. What may not work however, is how the new paper is combined. For example we don't want two different themes running side by side with no relationship between the learning, and we don't want students left with trying to work out how the different modules relate to one another within the new course.

2.      Proposed learning objects, media and activities are described, as well as the way in which they will be used.

For our new ‘combined’ paper- Alexa and I debated at length the purpose of this paper. We struggled with the idea of being told on one hand that this isn’t a re-write of the programme so we are just required to bring them together; alongside the other message to not ‘plonk’ our papers so one follows on from another. My other struggle is that because my paper is firmly situated in the theoretical discipline of SA- it was hard for me to understanding where the new paper was coming from. The new combined paper is called; “Concepts in Culture, Society and Health”. My question was what concepts are we using here? The new paper’s title had no mention of Social Anthropology or of Disability which are the two dominant themes in our papers.

What we have proposed is to keep the learning within the area of SA. OT school has clearly articulated that they want to keep this area as part of their ‘informing disciplines’ they offer at year 1, and to look at health and disability as a module within the overall paper.

Both Alexa and I agreed that this could be a way forward, however we are concerned that the different ‘pace’ of learning may be lost as Alexa’s paper becomes potentially squashed into 4 weeks instead of over 14 weeks. We are both flexible in the type of media/activities used and debated what alternatives we could explore. For example in 2013, it has been decided that Hui will be assessed- so I thought to cater for this the online discussions will not be assessed- but allowing students another option for engagement if they wanted. Alexa talked about using other media instead of an autobiography which wouldn’t require students as long to work through. For example, short stories, blogs, Youtube.

What we both struggled with however, is what we were prepared to loose with changing the structure. For example, I could change the requirement of Assignment 1 within my papers so that it becomes not assessed but an activity we do in a tutorial. I am reluctant to do so as from feedback from students, they found this one of the more rewarding assessments and it can be used for their future practice. Alexa was unsure if changing the media used for students to explore disabilities would mean that a deep level analysis would be lost.

We also discussed the sustainability of this paper- for example – are we asking too much of students in this paper?

To help us progress some of this thinking we have asked for a meeting between two other colleagues in the department who were part of the original group who had combined these papers so that we can check if we are on the right track.

3.      Reflection on resourcing, including any new technologies, staffing and training provided.

Both Alexa and I felt the resourcing and either access to or use of new technologies were provided for in these papers. The support in place through Otago Polytechnic was great in helping develop new learning media, and the resourcing offered by the department was a good balance to support blended learning. We have already been told the number of F2F hours (97) in total and once we take out hui, we are left with about 5 hours per student per week. We do need to go through the ‘operational’ side of this paper in depth to see what impact it has on how we can deliver- and although we would like to maintain the ideal scenario of choosing the best method of delivery for the learning, there are times we may have to compromise on this ‘ideal’. This is in particular as we come to terms with how to best meet the needs of students located at WINTEC. I have asked for more guidance on this, as although we agree that we want both cohort of students to have the same learning outcomes, does this mean that they have to be delivered in exactly the same way??

Staffing at Wintec continues to be a challenge and I think it’ll be a huge challenge for existing staff to pick this new paper up to teach. We are exploring options this year, as a new staff member will be teaching SA, so watch this space….!


  1. Gina you highlight some of the key issues with courses being bandaided together. A more integrated approach, if you could manage it somehow, would be better.

    With regard to the autobiography activity, it would be useful if students could choose the format they want to explore. For example, some may prefer to read an autobiography as they may already have one in mind and may just have to revisit it, and some people are fast readers.

    Or they could explore a topic on Youtube or through blogs or other means on the Internet - as you mention. The opportunity for them to explore and then produce a mix of ideas and perspectives would be beneficial to encourage deep learning. I am not sure how students report on the autobiography, but in my opinion it is not the source of the information that prevents deep learning but the way the information is analysed and re-created to explain the understanding the student has gained from it. So while shorter and smaller chunks of information could definitely make it faster for students to obtain the information they need within the shorter time frame anticipated in the re-mix of the course, the time could be taken up in explaining what is learned in a meaningful way.

    How do you think it would benefit students if they could use a variety of ways to engage in inquiry into an autobiographical topic? How do you think students could weave in the concepts of social anthropology into the inquiry in this area?

  2. Hi Bronwyn, firstly Alexa and I have spent a bit of time with your second question so I'll have a go at answering this one first.

    The concepts of SA and CIH have been weaved together by maintaining SA as the vehicle for inquiry, but taking the key learning (from what I understand) CIH. In CIH students not only learn about poeple with disabilities and their lives (from their perspective), but also the link between their experiences and wider society and how they impact on each other. In SA we critique some of the dominanat structures (such as Ministry of Health policies) by looking at social control- and also the 'context' of other groups of people who have been marginalised- so there is a link here when we critique what people with disabilities are sharing with previsou learning.

    In terms of your other question, yes there is a benefit for studnets to use other ways to engage as long as it's sustainable for the other learning area which is a critique of health strategies etc. I guess I would have to take some lead form Alexa on this one.

    Thanks Gina