Launching the teaching and learning blog
Monday September 14th 2015
The start of term evokes a mix of emotions for most of us usually accompanied by a rash of purchases and promises to ourselves and others. Whether new pencils, pristine journals, and yet to be used library cards are your cup of tea, or if you are thinking optimistically about Twitter and Facebook accounts, laptops, tablets and smart phones, the start of term is a time of new beginnings, optimism and excitement for some and possibly anxiety for others.
In the Teaching Commons we started the year back in July when we held the first of two orientation days for new faculty. With teaching starting this week, and Freshers’ Week behind us we can almost hear the crackling of the paper as professors share their course syllabi and students find out a little more about what to expect in the coming weeks.
As a time of new beginnings we thought this would be the perfect time to launch our weekly blog – Teaching and Learning at York. We have reached out to the teaching community inviting those who teach to share their concerns, insights, pet peeves with the rest of us. If you haven’t yet been asked, please don’t be shy – contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to offer to write a blog. We ask for between 500 and 750 words and a photo or picture either of yourself or something related to the blog topic.
For some reason the image the comes to mind when I think about the start of the year is the time I lectured a group of 400 third year medical students at a University in the UK. As I began my carefully rehearsed talk about techniques and practices likely to bring them success as learners I realized that I was the audience – not them. In perfect sequence the students began what in the UK we would call a ‘Mexican wave’ (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8742454.stm ) of coughs from one side of the lecture theatre to the other, and then back again. This was not my most auspicious moment as I realized what was happening and wondered how to capture the students’ attention. This group of students had clearly used the previous two years to find ways to amuse themselves at the lecturer’s expense in what I found to be an astonishingly effective passive aggressive act. I survived to not only tell the tale but also to continue on for a second and subsequent weeks.
Perhaps I should have followed the advice in this article by David Atkinson in the Guardian newspaper from September 2012 – http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/sep/03/university-first-class-lecturer-advice
Six top tips to get the first class off to a flyer
1) Arrive early and prepare the room: That includes seating arrangements. You’re striving for active engagement from the off.
2) Start to learn names: Take a register and, when someone has a question, ask him or her to give their name first.
3) Hold the admin until week two: Instead, set an interesting task to whet their appetites and then guide them through it.
4) Engage the students with the material: A real-life exercise to discuss is a great way to do this.
5) Set ground rules implicitly: The concept of andragogy suggests that when rules are created (or negotiated), they are also explained.
6) Give out the module handbook at the very end: Ask students to come back to the next session with two questions each about it.
What are your top tips for a perfect new start to the year?