Higher Education is rapidly changing, as is the nature of our students. No longer can we assume that the majority will have come straight from school with very specific qualifications. We must expect that students will have very different starting knowledge bases and our teaching has to be inclusive. Thus it is important to understand what your students are expecting at the start (they may have different perceptions of what is expected in Higher Education or of what learning the title of your module reflects). It is also critical to managing student expectations of what is expected of them and what can be expected of the course team. Explain how the course/module operates, how they are expected to engage online between face-to-face sessions, and how learning occurs in your disciplinary field. Do not assume prior knowledge so that your practice is inclusive.
Teaching in Higher Education
A one-hour scheduled session does NOT mean one hour of delivering content. Staff often make the mistake of believing they have to ‘tell students everything they need to know’. This just encourages memorisation. The UWL pedagogy considers learning on a week-by-week basis which means that the face-to-face time is only part of the 40 hours of learning per week a full-time student is expected to undertake. Face-to-face sessions should focus on the core concepts of the subject, the things that students find difficult to understand. This means you can take time for questioning and discussion to ensure they do fully comprehend these concepts and then encourage them to develop their understanding and knowledge further through scaffolded activities using the VLE. Remember you are speaking to an audience of learners who need to assimilate information and create new knowledge and understanding, this is why the UWL pedagogy is based on active learning.
Further support is available through the various Continuous Development of Practice (CPD) that are run by the Centre for Enhancement in Learning and Teaching (CELT) or you might even decide to read Independent Thinking on Teaching in Higher Education by Dr Erik Blair, Senior Lecturer in Health Professions Education at Queen Mary, University of London.
Always start and end your face to face session with what you will be covering and what students should know and understand by the end of the week. At the beginning of a session, show the desired learning outcomes and how they relate to the module assessment. At the end of the session, remind the students of the link between what they have learned and how they will be expected to demonstrate this through assessment.
Most lecturers tend to use slides when teaching. If you do use slides, please stick to the following principles:
- Include as little text as possible. Text should be in hand-outs, not slides.
- Check the colour scheme. Colours look different on your own computer than they do when projected in the lecture theatre and some learning disabilities mean that students may not be able to decipher your slides.
- Use animation only if it is part of the learning activity (not just for effect)
- Use large font. Make sure students at the back of the class can read your slides.
- Only fill about two-thirds of the slide
If you lecture at students they will write down everything you say (or everything on your slides if the two are not the same). They can do this without thinking and therefore without learning. By taking an active approach to learning and providing only short periods of ‘information transmission’, you can encourage students to learn through activities. For example, Race (2006) suggests students be encouraged to make notes rather than take notes. When you have made a particularly important point, ask students to summarise in their own words what you have been talking about. Encourage them to compare their notes to other students’ notes to test their understanding (see one, do one, teach one!)
Questions and answers
Students are often shy when it comes to asking questions. To encourage them, let them form small groups and develop ‘group questions’. These can be written on pieces of paper and passed to you. Before answering a question, ask the class the question – peer to peer learning is often more effective! If you receive no response, then work with the students to provide the answer.
Make sure that students are aware what seminars are for. You need to stress that it is vital that students come prepared – otherwise they will get little out of seminars. Remember that seminars are not for teaching. Seminars should be facilitated by the lecturer, and students should be actively engaged. Facilitation can be challenging as you need to prevent some students from dominating the session. The key outcomes (purpose) of the seminar should be made clear to the students at the start.
Race, P. (2006) The Lecturer’s Toolkit (3rdedition). London: Routledge.