Alert: This is a Thinking Spaces opinion piece not an official piece of academic research – please engage and remember: these are often musings, not findings.
Learning is hard!
I have been tutoring, lecturing, and teaching for several years now; and I love it. I love more each year. I have the unique opportunity to teach in both secondary school and higher education (only at university at the moment, still need to get into a college and primary school to get the full set!). Teaching is by far the most I think you can have at work. Encouraging others to build reason, knowledge, and understanding through your encouragement and enthusiasm is amazing.
However, it is not always so fun for the student. One of the biggest issues facing educators is student engagement. In 2019 pedagogical practice is increasingly turning to focus on the need for interactive learning. A recent article from the University of Virginia applauded educators for employing more interactive aspects of teaching including:
- Using short in-class discussion exercises and blogs
- Encouraging engagement with media and current film content
- Encouraging open and judgement free debate
- Linking complicated concepts to state of the art applications
- Introducing unique assignments such as a ‘choose your own chemical engineering adventure” assignment, where students were encouraged to connect the course material to their own interests.
Now, this is not new. Teaching is almost wonderfully about cycles of practice, of continually innovating and testing new ways to engage learners. Almost always however the framework has to remain the same –
- Core knowledge to be disseminated (Curriculum)
- Set teaching environment (Classroom, Lecture Hall, Virtual Learning Environment)
- Teaching Practice (Lecturing, Presenting, Media showing, Physical Resources, Digital Resources).
- Coursework to encourage the confirmation of understanding and expansion of core concepts (essays, posters, presentations, group work, blogs, videos, artwork, etc).
- Assessment to confirm knowledge transference (exams, coursework, oral testing).
There are countless different approaches within this typical model ranging from pre-school through to additional adult learning, with each facet in between modulating, evaluating, and transforming; yet these 5 aspects almost always remain in one way or another.
Setting aside the issues with aspects such as assessment and curriculum for the purpose of this discussion, one of the key aspects that remain is pedagogical practice. The traditional method of write and repeat learning -akin to the Victorians – is often viewed as archaic as it is unequal.
However, group or presentation work again can be prohibitive when issues such as confidence, anxiety, participation, and oral dissemination are brought into question. Additional tasks such as online assessments, smaller reports or essays, or any other form of created work can be particularly effective but they have the side effect of significantly increasing the workload for the learning practitioner.
Here is the point where I say – I do not have a particular answer to this issue. Fortunately, that is not what I am trying to do – other than to put forward the idea that one of the easiest ways to make this better for both staff and students is to allow both to draw joy from a teaching exercise. Dump the powerpoint – and let’s do something more interesting.