Wednesday 1 November 2017

Exec Summary

Like all modern institutions The Institute talks large and strong about objectivity and transparency. We can't have people securing a job or getting super marks because they are the nephew of the Dean of Women. But like all such aspirations, the metrics tend to acquire legs and a life of their own. Thus nurses spend as much time filling in forms recording their care and attention as they spend actually doling out care and attention. I've written before about plagiarism, which is a mortal sin, and how we adjust the optics so that nobody can claim that we condone ripping off other people's work. By defining plagiarism in a particular way you prevent that sort of plagiarism from happening while ignoring other cases because they don't fit neatly into the guidelines.

Same with courses. They gather inertia because it is such a pain in the arse to change the syllabus. IF the field moves on and your lecture material become obsolete; THEN

  • you have to rewrite the syllabus in a particularly constraining stylised format; 
  • submit it to the teaching and learning committee; 
  • who sends it through finance; 
  • then it needs to go out to external review; 
  • this input is considered by the T&LC; 
  • and then incorporated by you-the-lecturer. 

You can see why crumblies like me might reckon it's only 2-3 year to retirement and not implement any change.

How does anyone know if you've done your job?
  • you have to delimit each part of the course with Learning Outcomes
  • then you teach to the Learning Outcomes
  • finally you examine on the Learning Outcomes to close the circle. 
If something hot-and-trendy gallops across the horizon of your field - like the horseburger scandal of 2013 - you ignore it because you stray off the path of the Learning Outcomes at your peril. Bureaucrats like to talk about a mythical litigious student who will sue you and your employer if you go off-topic from the defined educational contract as delimited by the bloody Learning Outcomes. The intangibles of shining eyes or scribbling pencils or stories to tell their children are not measurable and so invisible in the process.

My big lecture course is Human Physiology for the Cert in Pharmacy Technician studies. In another place of learning in the region there is a diploma in OTC Pharmacy Assistantship. Some of them might want to go onwards and upwards to become a Pharm Tech. I guess it is like going from being a E-3 squaddie to a sergeant. We were asked to go on a recruitment drive at the other place and I was asked to make two slides that would encourage and intrigue an ambitious Diploma-PA cough up the fees for Cert-PT with us. That's a bit like the Monty Python sketch about Summarize Proust in 2 minutes. Or in this case making  a two minute summary of 60 contact hours from Adrenal to Zoonosis. Hard to do without trivialising the whole exercise.
I sent these two composites off to my colleague who is going to speak to the OTC after she told me to be heavy on the pictures and light on the Latin. I had a weird time googling images of armpits, bathers, beakers, eskimos, garçons, hackles, muscles, runners, shivers, sponges, turtles . . . the fact that everything relevant to homeostasis and blood-pressure has seven letters is purely coincidental.

Learning Outcomes? I do those, because they are required, I lead each chunk of the course with a slide containing them. But I fill up the hour with a anecdotes and stories and allusions and examples which don't appear on the slides, let alone on the LOs. The examinable material is condensed to an Executive Summary: an illustrated two sides of A4. If you know This, I say, then you will defo pass the assessments.

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