Pandaji's Blog

Art, research, education


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Profile 2. Teaching and supporting student learning, May 2010


“I never teach my students; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”

“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

“Imagination is more important than knowledge…”

—Albert Einstein

US (German-born) physicist (1879-1955)

I wouldn’t go as far as to say I never teach my students, but creating the conditions for learning is also a major part of my job. (See 4. below.) I try to encourage peer assisted learning (PAL) amongst the students. In accordance with Phil Races’ presentation called Ripple (2004) “consolidating what they have learned by putting them into a position of helping others“ gives students increased self-esteem and confidence in themselves as well as in their ceramic skills.

As Brookfield (1995) points out, “A teacher who encourages peer learning shows how important it is to trust other students.” My action research proposal starts to investigate the potential for formalising peer-assisted learning by using a chart designed to help students identify who have particular ceramic skills amongst them.

These students need to have the confidence to sign up under a particular skill, thus agreeing to help others who will then seek them out for help with a specific skill or technique. I try to make sure that I then follow up with both students concerned to ensure both parties are satisfied they can trust each other.

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Profile 2. Examples of teaching and/or supporting student learning, May 2010


Confidence was shown by students who were previously nervous about attempting to glaze a large article. I am trying to use methods that enhance transformative learning like disorientating, failure (Taylor 1998) I do not consciously set up students to fail, but if something does ‘fail,’ I find it useful to discuss what is seen as failure, (as in an arts subject as opposed to say medicine,) failure could be construed as a positive outcome.

Learning can be the ability to know where to find knowledge. Understanding the way to read a standardised glaze test and then the ability to imagine whether it would do justice to a particular piece. Practising the application techniques in order to learn how it behaves on a specific piece or place. Allowing time for discussing test results or work in progress, either as a whole group or individually, and encouraging students to discuss their work with each other. This helps enhance self-esteem.

Occasionally when I am giving advice or demonstrating techniques I am not deeply familiar with, I have learnt to try not to show how nervous I am as this can be contagious! It seems a shame that there isn’t more time for formal discussions with colleagues as to how well we are supporting the students as a team.


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Profile 1. Teaching and supporting student learning, October 2009


Most of my teaching over the last twenty years has been within a community setting or with people with mental or physical disabilities. I have built up a significant amount of relevant resources such as moulds for easy construction of ceramic pieces by people with little or no experience of handling clay, and colour samples to help with understanding the of use of ceramic colour and glazes, which can vary considerably from actual use to finished object, due to the effect of heat. I determined that the ceramic studio at Wimbledon needed more inspiring resources that are usually required for teaching glaze and decorative finishes. Instead of using plain tiles, I have made colour samples and other examples of clay types and processes in the form of ceramic custard cream biscuits and dolls heads. My line manager has just produced a resource library of 12 cm cubes and spheres made out of a variety of materials with accompanying videos of the techniques used. I contributed by making several ceramic spheres and cubes and by helping him understand the processes involved.

We are also encouraged by our line manager to share skills in order to better understand each other’s areas of expertise. I have taught several of my colleagues how to make a ceramic object; in exchange, I have learnt various computer, sewing, mould making and woodworking skills from my colleagues. I often try to encourage peer group learning amongst the students as I find this is a great way to learn myself. Some of the tutors have mentioned they would like to have the opportunity to do this type of skill sharing, but in the current climate of hours being cut I do not see this happening in the near future. However, I believe it would be a terrific way to help students across foundation have a better supported learning experience. Moreover, it might help tutors assess ceramic work with an improved understanding of the processes involved.