In this series of posts, we’ve compiled helpful teaching advice from Joseph Yeo, lecturer in the Academic Language and Learning Group of the Institute for Interactive Media and Learning. He’s given us valuable tips for getting students to do pre-class activities and ensuring assessment integrity.
This final post brings you Joseph’s recommendations for encouraging students and getting them to participate in your face-to-face and/or online classes, helping them to get the most of assessments, and inspiring them to engage in online discussions.
Here are Joseph’s helpful insights:
A focus on lecture attendance
The UTS learning.futures strategy, which focuses on “how our students learn and what our teachers can do to support that learning” emphasises that traditional lectures should be a thing of the past. Instead, we should be encouraging “students to engage with new ideas online before class — so that they can benefit from active and collaborative experiences in innovative learning spaces on campus.” But how do you actually ensure that students attend classes and profit from your expertise?
Perhaps the first thing you could do is to learn more about your students by collecting some data from them. Try to discover what exactly would encourage them to attend and participate in your classes, what they expect to get out of each one, and what their learning needs are. This should help you to see if there’s a clash between students’ expectations and yours.
You could also use this student feedback to inform the way you communicate the objectives of your classes. By explicitly stating how you’re going to focus on your students’ needs, you’ll maximize the chances of attendance, active participation and meaningful engagement.
Some have suggested ditching the term ‘lecture’ altogether and naming these sessions something that reflects and emphasises their interactivity. How about seminar, workshop, roundtable or forum?
(However, this will only work if what is conducted within a physical or virtual learning space befits the new term. If it’s still chalk-and-talk, renaming it won’t make a difference.)
It’s been suggested that the provision of presentation slides before a class can mean fewer students in attendance. Since they already have access to the week’s content, it may not be important for students to turn up. However, having early access to your slides can help students to get ready for class, improve their listening skills and better prepare them for note-taking.
A good way to get the best out of early provision of lecture slides, while avoiding the pitfalls, is to provide slides containing only the broad structure of what’s going to be covered in class. You could outline the main topics and themes and give a preview of key terms and concepts, while saving the details, examples, analysis and discussion for your sessions when you meet with the students.
Many subjects at UTS now have well-designed group assessments. It’s perhaps a good idea to allocate some in-class time each week for group meetings – especially since students often complain that they can’t find the time to meet up. This would also help to ensure that students are working on their group assessment progressively, and not leaving it to the last minute. Another benefit of this is that any group work issues can be dealt with directly, and with your guidance.
In a number of the LXT meetups, people have commented that their students are very much driven by assessments. But is this actually a bad thing?
Doing an assessment is part of learning. In fact, the entire process of preparing for an assessment is an active learning experience: unpacking the task and rubrics, researching, reading and note-taking, developing an understanding of the subject, writing and editing task responses. To make the best of this, a multi-part, staged assessment is more beneficial for students than a single, large, end-of-session assessment. With a staged assessment, students receive regular feedback, which they can then incorporate and use to improve their work in successive tasks.
Hopefully, the ability to add module-specific discussions to Canvas will help engage students in more targeted interactions. If necessary, discussions can be set up as low-stakes assessments. For example, you could have a discussion board for each of the three or four modules in your subject, with a different focus for each to keep things interesting — a reflection on the module’s contents or on a reading, or a discussion on a topical issue. You could then randomly select one of the students’ contributions for assessment. Because they don’t know which of their posts will be assessed, they are likely to take all of them more seriously.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts from Joseph. We just couldn’t let his advice and insights be kept to a select few! As always, please feel free to use the comment box below to share your own insights and ideas with the UTS community. And keep eye on this blog for the latest learning and teaching insights and ideas.