Empowerment through Engagement:
Since we have returned from winter break I have been looking at how to make simple changes to how I teach my classes. Last year, and even before the Winter Break, I used powerpoint lectures and then class time to complete a task related to the content. I would argue that my students were engaged based on how I lecture – use of stories, examples, videos, humour etc. However, I have always hated the “busy work” of the follow up assignments as do we really truly know if they students completely understand the topic or are they doing the surface work to complete the textbook questions, worksheet etc.
So to start January, I have reorganized my room from a lecture hall style class to Island Groups of 3 or 4 and put inquiry questions or set topics that students need to either research, collaboratively discuss or find the info on their own in the textbook, internet, twitter or blogs. I give them approximately 45mins of the 68min class to complete their group tasks and then come back together to discuss. In that 45min time period students were 90-95% engaged. However, because I was free to circulate around the room, eavesdrop, and offer feedback, students who were not engaged quickly got back on task. The last 15-20mins allowed the class/group to ensure they were on the same page as their classmates, provided time to question the class to check for understanding and EMPOWERED them to take ownership of their own learning. Because they had the freedom to choose their method of inquiry (internet, textbook, discussion) I feel that they were more engaged and due to the formative assessment this style of class allows, I can also confidently say that ALL my students understand the topics and could address the questions that started the learning.
Again, I would argue that this simple innovation (taking something inside the box and making it better) lead to motivation and engagement.
I have sought feedback from a number of students with various academic abilities to tell me how they liked the changes so far. So far i am hearing that they like the new style, like the freedom to get their own information and feel that they have better retention and understanding of the material. One student did say though that they don’t want every class to be that way as she likes my personalized stories and she likes the lecture style for more difficult concepts like we did today (unintentional tort law). I asked these students how many of their other teachers have tried this method – only a few said one of their other teachers have done something similar but not to this degree – and the rest said none. I wonder how we can get all teachers trying some simple innovation to engage our students and provide deeper understanding