Today I had the pleasure to attend a pedagogy course taught by Prof. Kristine de Valck and Caroline Meriaux at HEC Paris. Thanks to this course, I realized that when you are a teacher there is so much you can learn about pedagogy that you can readily apply to your classes. In fact, I want to share with you a few highlights and tips that I found the most useful and easy to implement.
Before we joined the class, we had to complete the Learning styles questionnaire. Each individual has a different "style" of learning and being aware of our own learning style can be helpful when we later design a course. In fact, if you possess a certain learning style, as a teacher, you might be tempted to design a course that "fits" your inclination for learning.
Activists. These love novelty, and will 'try anything once'. Give them a task, and they will throw themselves wholeheartedly into it. They like to get on with things, so they are not interested in planning what they are about to do. They live very much in the present. They get bored with repetition and what they see as raking over the dead embers of the past. They are exciting, vital, open-minded and gregarious.
Reflectors. These like to 'look before they leap'. They like to collect information and sift it. They are cautious, thorough people. They prefer to observe rather than take the lead. They are slow to make up their minds, but when they do, their decisions are very soundly based - not only on their own knowledge and opinions, but also on what they have learned from watching and listening to others. Though they are often quiet in groups, this stems from their 'Olympian detachment' rather than from nervousness.
Theorists. These live in a world of ideas. They have tidy, organised minds. They are not happy until they have got to the bottom of things and explained their observations in terms of basic principles. They want to know the logic of actions and observations. They dislike subjectivity, ambiguity, and those who take action which is not underpinned by a theoretical framework. When a teacher uses figures in support of an argument, it is the theorists who will ask questions about their statistical validity.
Pragmatists. These are also keen on ideas, bur want to try them out to see if they work. They are much less interested in actually developing the ideas - in fact, they will cheerfully beg, borrow or steal those they think will help them take action more effectively. They enjoy experimentation, but are not interested in the long dissection of the results that would appeal to the reflector. They take the view that if something works, that's fine, but if it doesn't, there is no point in wasting much time wondering why. The thing to do is to find something more promising and try that. They love solving problems.
I am an ACTIVIST (very strong preference) / REFLECTOR (strong preference) and I believe that this is reflected in the very applied nature of my classes. However, I think that I account for THEORISTS and PRAGMATISTS as well by providing up to date references / statistical validity information to everything that I mention and by letting them experiment with in-class activities.
Learning objectives are statements that define the expected goal of a curriculum, course, lesson or activity in terms of demonstrable skills or knowledge that will be acquired by a student as a result of instruction. These objectives are usually stated at the beginning of our course syllabus, but how do we go about writing them? Honestly, I did not have a formalized way to do so before taking this course and maybe you don't either.
Here is what I learned.
There is a useful verb taxonomy developed by Benjamin Bloom (1956) that can be used as a guide to write your course objectives. Bloom organized what educators want students to know in a series of levels from less to more complex:
Learning theories are conceptual frameworks describing how knowledge is absorbed, processed, and retained during learning. Over time, different theories emerged that hold different views of how the learner acts and that emphasize different factors being crucial for learning.
Today is the era of connectivism learning. We all "google stuff", click on hyperlinks, seamlessly jump from text to videos. Look up Wikipedia entries and jump all over the internet to find answers. This is exactly what we need to keep in mind when designing our courses. We need to be able to: 1) change our class formats to encourage self-directed learning; and 2) incorporate digital tools that facilitate sharing of content and create knowledge collaboratively.
How do we do that? We flip our classrooms and we embrace digital transformation.
A flipped class inverts the sequence of presenting instructional material and application so that students come prepared to class to interact with a classroom of peers and an instructor as they share, test, apply, and integrate the material with their prior knowledge.
There are many ways in which you can use digital tools in class and different purposes that they might serve. Here following a list of the digital tools that I plan to use in my next courses.
Final Reflection on What I learned, What I did wrong and What I plan to do.
First, I never thought that the “learning objectives” part of my syllabus was so fundamental. However, it should not have been so surprising given my role as a teacher and my intent to have my students learn something. I think that this workshop opened my eyes about many things that I usually overlook when I design a course, and just by doing that, it will substantially change the way I think as an educator. From what I saw, designing precise, actionable and measurable learning objective will help me align my expectations to those of my students and it will likely help me avoid bad evaluations that are due to expectation disconfirmation. Next time I am writing my learning objectives, I will go back to Bloom’s taxonomy of action verbs and I will delineate precise goals for my students to refer to. I also need to make sure that they understand that those outcomes are what they should strive for. In order to lessen the emphasis on grades, maybe I should adopt a partial self-grading/peer-grading system whenever possible.
Second, I uncovered that I was making a huge mistake in starting my classes right on time and with lecturing. Students need to have their brain ready to follow a class and the first few minutes of a class are fundamental to clear their brain and devote attention to what is being sad. I never thought about that and I will start experimenting with a few possibilities next time I am teaching. I think I like the options of putting music on or of projecting a problem/quote before people come into class.
Third, I discovered how to use technology in my classroom and why such a blended format of online and offline can be beneficial to students’ learning. In particular, I want to flip part of my future classes for my students to do some of the work online and prior to class. I think that if I manage to correctly communicate how a flipped classroom could substantially improve their outcomes, I might be able to reduce their resistance to what they think it is an increased workload. One way to engage them even more could be to test their knowledge with pools during class (e.g., Socrative) and to ask them to post questions and examples on an online platform (e.g., channel on Slack).
Finally, I learned that assessing student learning in a formative rather than summative way is very important. Looking back at the consumer behavior course that I have designed and taught in March, I realized that I have no idea if my students understood or remembered anything of what I lectured them on for a month. In fact, for this course I did not have a final exam but I had two group projects instead. For the group project #1 they had to read a book chapter, present a summary to the rest of the class and come up with smart examples of real-world phenomena that related to what was discussed in the chapter. For the group project #2 they had to analyze a viral advertisement and come up with a storyline to turn a boring advertising into an ad that had the potential to go viral. Even though students in those projects mention a lot of concepts that we discussed in class, I am not really sure about which they remember and which they do not. I think that next time I will use a poll or a quiz here and there to assess whether they are listening to me or I just bore them to death.
There is a lot to be done and that can be done but this course made me realize that is not impossible to become an excellent educator. Let's see what my future courses will look like!
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