0 comments on “3 things about effective training I learned as a university lecturer”

3 things about effective training I learned as a university lecturer

We’ve all been there, those of us who have taught undergraduate students. The 9am slot. The time when hordes of empty seats face us thanks to 2-4-1 offers at the student’s union the night before. And those brave souls who have made the effort to attend stare vacantly at the podium. There is no more melancholy experience of participant disengagement. But luckily, it did lead to my learning a wide range of tricks and techniques to enhance engagement.

1. Don’t treat learners like idiots

I know, if they’re hungover it’s self-inflicted injury, right? But have a little compassion. There’s not that much difference between a new university student and any learner – in fact observing academics when they have to sit in classrooms often shows them to be the most inattentive and disruptive of students! Despite the inequality of expertise between the ‘sage on the stage’ and the learner, everyone has relevant expertise to contribute. And an ‘I told you so’ attitude will not have a productive effect in helping any learners reach their outcomes.

If your learners or trainees lack knowledge of the topic, I often found it helped to start with a punching bag exercise. This is an exercise where you invite them to propose the worst imaginable scenario of ignorance. According to your topic this may represent the most bumbling of practitioners, the most unstrategic of managers, the worst value proposition. This imagined punching bag person makes learners feel comfortable and knowledgable by comparison, confident to contribute to discussion, and draws out genuine expertise about what to avoid.

2. Plan your outcome not your content

It may seem much easier to have a fixed idea about the content your learners or trainees need to cover. It’s easier to prepare, to schedule and plan, and to ensure that the specified material is all delivered with no omissions or gaps. You can offer opportunities to ask questions and provide support, and even test participant’s cognitive understanding. But will they be able to recall and deliver when it matters? What do you do with those who didn’t ‘get it’ in the classroom or workshop?

A focus on outcomes rather than content is part of a ‘flipped’ educational method where you give all relevant information to learners in formats they can access at any time. Because information is not learning, and time spent delivering information is time that can be better used for development. Moving away from a clock-based system to an understanding-based system also involves more interactive training and teaching techniques. Providing tests and quizzes or simulation exercises allows a more in-depth focus on developing understanding, which is also more in alignment with client’s or students real interests.

3. Turn your learners into teachers

People learn best from those whose expertise and cultural reference points are similar to their own. While there is an important value to be gained from exploring our differences, getting to that stage relies upon a shared basis of communication and understanding. In the majority of teaching and training settings, that shared platform takes a long time to develop, and getting to the stage where trainer and trainee can meet on shared territory requires both to learn more about each other.

In the early stages, whether that’s minutes or weeks of a learning programme, learners will often have more in common with each other than with the trainer. Utilising this shared bond to enhance their development is a great way to get started. Encourage students or trainees to reflect on their initial learning stages together, present their thoughts to each other, and support feedback between these groups and your expertise. It all begins to establish a common territory – and you might learn something too.

0 comments on “Opening Teaching to Play”

Opening Teaching to Play

Today I am delivering a short session as part of the Open University’s pre-conference development workshop for scholars of Critical Management Studies, aimed specifically at early career researchers and PhD students. I’m particularly excited about being able to present, side-by-side, games promoting social change from 2018 (Who’s She by Playeress), and from 1908 (Suffrageto, sold by the WSPU).

Gamification is a current popular trend in HE. While there are many examples of poor or even unethical gamification, research has indicated that games offer a productive mechanism for cognitive learning, and even that the affective potential of games can help students develop valued graduate attributes. Drawing on Huizinga’s (1932) argument that play precedes culture, we can also identify playful behaviour within a wide variety of seemingly sacred social contexts (e.g. law courts), and particularly in the development of knowledge through wordplay and social competition. Office politics or the ‘game playing’ of career oriented behaviour is one such example! The way in which scholars publish, critique and challenge each other’s ideas to advance knowledge is an advanced form of this game-playing instinct.

So why should we keep games out of the classroom? Many teaching contexts continue to rely on information delivery based on talk and writing, with perhaps some limited discussion. This is then supported by independent learning using a variety of techniques, which may be supported or unsupported by institutional training. While many students have become highly proficient in this method through prior experience, it does not come naturally. By contrast, playing games does. The main challenge to such adoption lies in discovering or developing games which promote the designed learning outcomes. I call these ‘intended gaming outcomes’.

Follow the links if you would like to download the slides and handouts from the session.

2 comments on “Take some time in 2019 to play with yourself”

Take some time in 2019 to play with yourself

Many people will be dusting off their old box of New Year’s Resolutions from 2018 today, acknowledging how unsuccessful or successful they were and planning some new ones for 2019. The trouble with New Year’s Resolutions is that they are often incredibly virtuous, a bit unpleasant, and too hard to keep up year-round. So to help you make your 2019 a little bit more fun, I’ve created a few videos to help you be your own coach and cheerleader. And you can do it in less than an hour a week – by playing with lego (or a similar brick-related toy product).

Play Along: the Skills Build

Part 1 – Technical skills

Part 2 – Using bricks as metaphors

Part 3 – Telling a story

Once you have completed the skills build, you are ready to move onto the self-coaching part of the process. This involves a repeatable 30 minute activity.

Self-coaching with LEGO Serious Play materials

Commit to regular play

Advice for self-coaching

Coaching yourself is much more difficult than being coached by someone else, but it can still pay off! You simply need to ensure you commit to regular sessions, and promise yourself to be honest.

Basic Coaching Questions

WHAT and WHY and WHAT. Getting great results is often about asking great questions. These question words help orient you towards a goal, understanding your current situation and considering your path towards change. What do I want to change? Why is it a problem? What can I do to make a difference? Finally, HOW will help you focus on your actions towards change.

To model your current satisfaction, fill out the Life Satisfaction Wheel

Keeping Track

The most important way to keep yourself motivated and bring about the change you aim for is by keeping track – but it doesn’t matter how you do it. You can keep a diary or bullet journal, build it using a LEGO diagram or calendar chart, or make a vlog. Just make sure you give yourself 15 or 20 minutes every fortnight to reflect and review your progress – and be playful!

Let’s make 2019 a year of serious fun. Play along!

0 comments on “What to do in Lectures: a guide”

What to do in Lectures: a guide

It’s that time of the year again and campus is filling up with fresh-faced undergraduates wondering just what they’ve let themselves in for. The more confident second year undergraduates are returning from their holidays, looking forward to seeing friends and perhaps a little worried about the fact that their second year is beginning and the work ‘counts’ now (as it contributes towards their degree classification). So for both the newbies and the experienced students now is a great time to get prepared for the sessions ahead. But, really, what are you actually supposed to do in lectures?

hint

I’m going to ramble about this, but for those who’d prefer a one-page graphic guide I have taken inspiration from my friend Matt over at Errant Science and made you a comic. First of all, let me introduce you to my comic self…

me

 

Hi there!

In a traditional lecture, an academic will spend most of the time talking to you about a specific subject in which they have expertise. We like to talk! But while we talk, what do you do?

The point of having a lecturer is that they are a subject expert, and as such they have lots of information and expertise that it would take you years to read up on. Think of them as being like a knowledge funnel, condensing all of that information down into a smaller space (and time). The problem is, that in many university degrees (and almost certainly in the lecture) you won’t be using that information straight away, so it can be hard to absorb.

You might have heard about learning styles – the idea that some people learn better by listening, or reading, or drawing…. that’s actually now been shown to be incorrect. Though you might have a preference for the way you like to be taught, you mostly learn the same as everyone else – by problem solving. Human beings are hard-wired problem solvers. But when the problem isn’t immediate, it can be hard to understand what you should be doing while your lecturer is there at the front rambling away!

But actually, everybody there does have a problem to solve – how to get a great degree! Often, this also includes an ambition to get the knowledge you need for a great career afterwards too. And to attack these problems requires a more focused approach in your lecture. Your immediate problems to focus on are:

  • How can I pay attention throughout this lecture (especially if I’m really sleepy)?
  • How can I transform this lecture into a record I can learn from?
  • How can I identify the most important information in this lecture?
  • How can I work out what areas I understand and where I need to ask questions to make sure I will do well in my assessments?
  • How do I come up with the right sort of questions?

 

tech

For most students, the wonder of technology seems to promise an answer to many of these questions – after all, the lecturer has provided powerpoint slides or notes that you can download, right? Also, it’s pretty easy to use your smartphone to record what they say!

Unfortunately, powerpoint is not a great resource to learn from, especially as it’s a pretty poor format for communicating complicated or non-linear ideas. Also, as it’s such a boring format, it’s more…. likely….. to………..zzzzzZZZZZ

Oh, is that the time? Sorry, I was snoozing there for a second.

The best thing you can do in a lecture is use techniques to help you engage with what is being said. One such technique is taking notes! Taking notes will help you pay attention and create great personalised records for you to learn from. If you use a method such as the Cornell Method presented here, it will also help set up your learning activities to do after the class time is over.

The Cornell Method relies upon you taking written notes, but helps you use a standard format to organise the page to encourage you to 1) create a summary of what you hear, 2) pinpoint key ideas and concepts by looking for verbal or non-verbal cues such as repetition or gesturing, as well as flag points you don’t understand so you can ask questions about it at an appropriate time, 3) collate your key messages together from each page in preparation for your follow-up work.

Organising your page according to the Cornell Method is really simple.

page

In Part 1, the main section of your page, you should aim to make comprehensive notes on what is being said according to what you hear from the lecturer (which may or may not reflect what they have put online). You won’t be able to capture every word, so abbreviate and focus on things that are repeated, emphasised with gestures or tone, or which seem to form the central or most significant points of the discussion.

In Part 2 of your page, the side column, you can note slide numbers or references, so if a section of the lecture refers to a specific reading or theory you could mark this next to the section you have written on it. This makes it much easier to review these notes later. You could also put question marks next to parts that confuse you, or that you might need to investigate further.

In the bottom section of your page, Part 3, you should leave blank during the lecture to give you space to go back and review your notes after the lecture is over. This will help you see the ‘bigger picture’ and may help come up with questions you need to ask your lecturer or tutor. It’s also a really useful space in which to summarise the lecture or section of your notes so you can find relevant material to prepare your assessments or revise for exams!