Thursday, 30 May 2019

If you want answers, ask questions...

One of my favourite poems, and one that I use in teaching, is by Rudyard Kipling and appears in the Elephant's Child:
I KEEP six honest serving-men
 (They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When 
 And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
 I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
 I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five,
 For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
 For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views; 
I know a person small—
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!

She sends'em abroad on her own affairs,
 From the second she opens her eyes—
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!

Just how many lectures give answers without the students being given the opportunity to ask questions?

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The 5 Rs of YouTube Learning

I love a good mnemonic or contraction, initialisation or acronym - it makes the most common sense things sound thought-provoking.  Price (2009) considered the needs of the generation of "millennial" or YouTube students.
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY

What emerged was a fantastic and alliterative contraction - 5 Rs.

Let me attempt to explain...

The 5 R's stand for:
  • Relevance. It's got to mean something to the student - linking it to the assessment may not be enough, but linking it to their future is a step in the right direction.
  • Rationale. Rules need to be explained - why is the essay only 2,500 words?  What is the tolerance for exceeding the limit?  Why can't I use the good stuff I found on Wikipedia?
  • Relaxed. Flexibility is the key - learning when I'm ready, not when the timetable says I should.
  • Rapport. Approachability of tutors, professors and administrators is very important to today's students.  Do they know that you are human too?
  • Research-based methods. Learning by doing and practical styles of delivery are favoured.
Review a course that you have just delivered against the 5Rs.

Ask yourself how the student experience could be improved by tweaking things like:
  • Timetable hours - who on earth learns at a time convenient to administrators?
  • Assessment - is it relevant and practical or is it an exam?
  • The different ways in which you communicate with students - just how available are you?
Now consider why you probably do not take action on any of these things...

REFERENCE: Price, C. (2009). Why Don't My Students Think I'm Groovy? The Teaching Professor,
23 (1), 7.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

The farmer's breakfast

There's an old story that goes like this....

The Chickens wanted the Pigs to contribute to the farmer's breakfast.

"The problem is", said the pigs, "that whilst you are involved in the breakfast we pigs would be fully engaged".

Now, we don't ask today's students to give their lives for their studies as that would miss the point and mess up the graduate employment statistics but we do ask them to give rather more than the Chickens.

Student engagement is somewhat of a Holy Grail for Higher Education.  Of course, engaged learners are higher performers but just what motivates them to become engaged?  It's certainly not simply the desire to "get their moneys worth" - so is there a secret?

Skinner (2008) - considered 805 schoolchildren, attempting to define the reasons for disaffection.  They broadly concluded (and the summary is mine) that active, repeated, rewarded learning leads to behaviours that drive engagement.

Lectures are rarely active, never repeated (except for Lecture Capture) and rewarded fleetingly by the attention of the academic scheduled to drone in front of rapidly changing Powerpoint slides.  So why are we still designing our HE experience on things that do not lead to learning?