Dear imaginary readers,
there is a category of workers in secondary schools, further and higher education that is vital, but doesn’t seem to get the recognition it deserves. I am talking about the technicians.
I have been one myself, first in a high school, and later in a university. However I fully realized how much technicians are important, when I became a student myself.
Technicians do not only carry out practical chores like maintaining labs, monitoring stock, running, troubleshooting and repairing complicated pieces of equipment. They also have an invaluable amount of hands on knowledge that they share with students without competition and pressure. They are always there for you, and they listen to your problems, sometimes even when they are not directly related to lab-work. They are less intimidating than most supervisors and they usually offer practical solutions.
Many people think that the role of a technician has nothing to do with teaching. Well, that is a wrong notion. The lab has been recognized as a very important learning environment. In fact it is the place where students put into practice the scientific method, through planning, running, and analyzing the results of an experiment.
In the science laboratory students learn to work cooperatively in small groups to investigate scientific phenomena, share spaces and equipment, have their first experience of practical failure, despite what the theory states would work.
Learners have the opportunity to enhance their procedural knowledge and skills, as they don’t just watch demonstration in a passive way but they are involved in hands-on activities which reflect the theory of experiential learning.
In general it is proved that critical thinking is an important skill to develop, especially as part of reflective practice, and the lab experience encourage the students to:
- Offer explanations of the difficulties experienced
- Recount what it has been done
- Plan some changes in the procedure
- Attempt the activity again, and report what it has been noticed, thought or perceived has changed
- Discuss together, draw conclusions and plan new actions
Technicians accompany and support the research student through all these phases.
For all the reasons stated above, and many more, I like to place myself in the technician category. I would like to thank all the technicians I have being lucky to work with, first as colleagues and now as a student. What I am doing now would have not being possible without them.
How can technicians (in higher education) get recognised for their contribution to teaching and student support? HEA Fellowship is one of the way and a number of institutions have already encouraged technicians to gain HEA Fellowship, at a relevant category.
If Technicians are involved in at least two of the following activities they can consider applying for a category of HEA Fellowship:
- Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study,
- Teach and/or support learning,
- Assess and give feedback to learners,
- Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance,
- Engage in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating research, scholarship and the evaluation of professional practices.
For more information about HEA Fellowships go to: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/individuals/fellowship
If you are interested in this subject you may want to read:
Boersma A. et al., (2016) Designing innovative learning environments to foster communities of learners for students in initial vocational education. Springer, Learning Environments Research, Volume 19, Issue 1,pp 107–131.
Danczak S.M., Thompson C. D., Overton T.L., (2016) What does the term critical thinking mean to you? A qualitative analysis of chemistry undergraduate, teaching staff and employers’ views of critical thinking, Chemistry Education Research and Practice, Royal Society of Chemistry.
Sellitto C., (2011) Capabilities Associated with University Group-work Activities: Experiential Benefits, Personal Attributes and Practically-acquired Skills, International Journal of Learning . 2011, Vol. 18 Issue 1, p401-410. 10p.
Zeniuk K. et al. (2001), Project-Based Learning: Building Communities of Reflective Practitioners, Management Learning Vol 32, Issue 1, pp. 61 – 76