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Feel like you're in a rut, doing the same old thing, week in, week out? Garvey suggests some tips for varying your teaching practices to make your classes more engaging and help your students succeed.
Hello, hello. Thank you for listening. I am Dr. Garvey Pyke, and I hope when we are done today, you will have learned something. In this episode of Teaching & Learning Matters, we are going to talk about how we can respect diverse talents and ways of learning, which is the final principle of Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.”
If you have not yet heard my podcasts on the other principles, I encourage you to do so after we finish here today. They are short and sweet and should provide you with some practical tips for making your classes more engaging and helping your students succeed.
OK, so what do Chickering and Gamson mean by respecting diverse talents and ways of learning? They say that faculty should create learning opportunities that appeal to the different ways students will process and attend to information; varying presentation style and assignment requirements will allow students to showcase their unique talents and learn in ways that work for them.
To put it another way, if we always do the same teaching practices in our course—lecture, quiz, lecture, quiz, lecture, quiz, final exam—with little variation, we are not giving students an opportunity to shine in different formats or learning modalities.
Some people refer to learning styles, a belief that students approach learning differently from one another with different preferences, such as some students learning better by listening, some better by doing, some better by reading or seeing information. Whether or not you subscribe to a belief in learning styles, research shows that when content is provided in a variety of different ways, and students are asked to interact with that content in a variety of different ways, then they will learn better and succeed in your class. That’s the concept behind this principle of respecting diverse talents and ways of learning, that we should balance classroom activities for all styles.
One way to implement this in your classroom is to vary your presentation style. Lecturing, using PowerPoint, having whole class discussions, breaking students into small groups for assignments or discussions—a good blend of these methods, and more, is recommended … even during the same class session! Student attention peaks at 10 minutes during a lecture, so why not mix it up a bit, and ask students to pair off to answer a set of questions, share it with the whole group for a quick discussion, and then resume lecturing if need be?
You could do a multimedia presentation or have students do them. And when students do presentations in groups, let students pick the various roles they will fill in their groups. A student who is good at graphical design could create the visuals such as the PowerPoint slides. Another student could lead the data analysis, and another could do the speaking during the actual presentation.
This way, all students can use their diverse talents to make the presentation outstanding. One bonus for those of us grading them is that we do not have to endure as many poor public speakers and instead hear from only the good ones!
Another important way to respect diverse talents and ways of learning is to provide students with choices. Give them choices on a test or essay—such as “answer three of the following five questions.” That way, they answer the questions that are most meaningful to them, and the assessment lets them extend their learning by proving how well they’ve learned it. Or you can design multiple project types that students can complete, and they can choose which one they will do. One student could do a presentation, another an essay, and another lead a whole class discussion.
I suppose you could say that this whole podcast is just a longwinded way of saying, “Hey, mix it up a little!” Well, that’s true—mix it up a little, or a lot!, and your students will do better. And if you feel like you have been stuck in a rut of doing the same old thing, week in and week out, mixing it up will make your teaching more enjoyable for you, too.
Want to learn more about respecting diverse talents and ways of learning? Come on over to the Center for Teaching and Learning at UNC Charlotte, and we will talk about some strategies that fit your style, your students’ needs, and your subject area.
Thanks for listening, and please tune in next time, where we will talk about…something else besides one of the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education…
Until then, so long, and remember: Teaching and Learning Matters.
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