Sunday morning and everybody is still asleep, well almost. Ody (8) loves making things and yesterday when I told him to clean his desk and throw the rubbish away, he told me that “rubbish is for making things”… 😉 This stayed with me and I have to admit that we might be too quick to call something rubbish and throw it in the bin… this applies to objects but also ideas and people, I think. Anyway, let’s get started with my reflection on this week’s LTHE session.
I am amazed, looking back at Tuesday’s session how different this from all the times it was offered before. All previous sessions where well-orchestrated and while they were mainly focusing on the students and where aiming to provide a rich student engagement, they were still tutor-led. We never know what will happen in our sessions but this week, I did let go more than any other time before and trully didn’t know where we were heading.
This session was an opportunity to discuss teaching in large and small groups and challenge perhaps “lecturing in the more traditional sense” (see article Don’t lecture me, which I used in class) – do we really need to use word ‘lecturing’??? isn’t this a bit anachronistic? Just wondering, Do some of us use it because it does sound more important somehow??? – See also Donald Clark’s work around this – while I had a clear plan and a clear structure and framework, it went messy very quickly… but was this a bad thing? I will try and make sense of what happened.
1. How did I feel?
I was really looking forward to this session. I was really looking forward to performing and bringing my tricks out of the bag, literally and metaphorically.When I arrived I realised that there wasn’t a microphone and I couldn’t use the video clips or the online polling. What a catastrophy! Catastrophy? This is at least how it felt when I realised that all these things would not be possible…
I was giggling when I setting up the classroom and the resources and couldn’t wait to start (this was before I realised that I would have all the above mentioned problems). Some of my students arrived late. I received texts and tweets from others asking where we are this week. In a way, my plan from last week worked… the plan was to let my students experience how it feels to receive limited or no communication from the tutor inbetween sessions. Not sure if many got this and how strong my message was… it would be good to find out. No presentation or any other resources were made available in advance. This did come up in the conversation at the beginning of the session and it was fascinating to hear the variety of views why this happened but also discover that this was ok and that many don’t really access the resourceds in advance of the session. This worries me, I have to admit! We are not filling empty buckets and I would definitely want my students to start engageing with the theme in advance of the session so that they can engage in a more critical way when in class and bring their questions with them. I don’t think any of my students realised that I puporsefully didn’t provide access to the resources in advance to make them think about their own practice… I might be wrong.
As finally students were arriving, I felt releaved and ready to start knowing that part of what I had planned and was high-impact, would not work. I improvised or should I say I let my students take over most of the session. This is what proper student-led sessions look like. Letting go is hard, but we do need to remember it is not about us and what we do, but about our students and what they do and providing the best environment for them to learn.
Great to see my students grabbing stuff out of my toolkit and using it to develop their activity on the spot. Effective improvisation in action. This was such a wonderful surprise. I was so pleased and proud that my students took over and used their creativity to re-design the session and while, I had other plans, I felt that it was ok, well more than ok, to stand back and let my students lead the session. I had in the back of my mind what we wanted to get out of this session together and as long as this was happening, I didn’t step in. Actually I feel that my students got more out of it doing it their way. I was very very happy and am still smiling.
2. What did I learn?
Letting go is a powerful teaching and learning tool. Putting our students in the driving seat of their learning can be motivational and empowering. I saw this happening in this session. As soon as my students realised that they are in charge of what was happening they somehow engaged in a different way in the activities, their activities.
3. What would I do differently?
I think I could be even more adventurous next time. Asking students to design this particular session from the outset, this is what I would like to try. I have done it with other sessions in the past, but this one that questions lecturing would be a very intersting one to be led by my students. Also, as we are usually a small group, 20-30 in one class, it would be fantastic if we could fill the lecture theatre with students, my students’ students and other students to participate in this session. I would love to try this. Can I make it happen for the next semester? I will start planning.
We did run out of time with the mini presentations and this was a shame… must remember to start next week with these. I should have shortened the time on each of the three stations and made some better time calculations… time management is something I tend to struggle with… but when the conversations are interesting and engage students, how can we stop them? This is tricky, I think, but we do need to learn to be more focused within specific timeframes, so I will definitely look at this again to make time so that all activities can be finished within a specific time.
Overall, I think we all got loads from this session. It definitely made me think and re-think about my own practice and identify further opportunities for more meaningful student engagement. How did you feel the session went? Please comment 😉
We are in the ThinkLab next week to discuss openly the student experience and will connect remotely with a student from Scotland who will share his experiences from being an online postgraduate student with us. Do you have any questions you would like to ask the student?