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February 17, 2010

Post session reflection

Follow-up to Increasing Student Interaction in Class from Alison's blog

I enjoyed this workshop. Thankfully, I got to the Teaching Grid about an hour before it kicked off and the wonderful TG staff helped me check through the questions I had set up using Turning Point and clickers. I was pleased that I had basically got it sorted out myself, which (equally pleasing) meant that I could legitimately tell the participants that getting to grips with clickers and the necessary software was pretty straightforward if they were familiar with powerpoint.

Nine people attended, and were quite happy to be used as guinea pigs as well as to throw themselves into a range of interactive activities. It *was* a bit rushed, and very frequently I had to cut an activity short before it had really got going because otherwise we wouldn't have got through the material. However, the point was primarily to give participants ideas which they could try out there and then, albeit briefly, and then take away to mull over and explore whether they could be of use in any of their own teaching contexts.

Feedback indicated that this had worked. One person wrote that the most useful aspect of the workshop had been the 'demonstration of each method' so he/she could 'see how [I] felt' about it, and another said in response to the same prompt that 'we practised ourselves the different methods of increasing interaction'. Interaction in the classroom *is* very personal and I wanted to stress to those present that they would undoubtedly feel that some of the approaches would work for them and others wouldn't. A lot depends on one's own personality and confidence, as well as the class dynamics, and the relationship that a lecturer has, or hasn't, built up with students. A lot depends too on class size and on the layout of the venue and on the facilities available. I did try to introduce activities which could pretty easily be done in a traditional classroom or lecture theatre layout, with seats arranged in rows all looking forwards, and I think that worked, although it was a bit odd for me to arrange 9 chairs in two forward-looking rows in the Teaching Grid, which begs for a very different style!

The clickers seemed to work well too. Again, feedback was positive with a number stating that their introduction (and to Turning Point)  had been the most useful aspect of the workshop. As I have noted previously, it was *my* first time using them too, so I was a bit nervous about it and very aware that I probably hadn't composed questions which demonstrated or modeled the real potential clickers have for enhancing learning. I did quite a lot of hunting around on YouTube to see if I could find something suitable and did see a couple of excerpts which indicated that, used well, they potentially have a huge role to play. I need to do more work on that in preparation for the next time the workshop runs. Nonetheless, I think everyone in today's workshop could see the benefit of them even in the rather simple way I introduced them.

What else would I change for the next workshop? Feedback raised a couple of things participants would have liked 'covered' and/or provided: how to manage class control, especially when using clickers; a greater theoretical and/or research introduction to the benefits of interaction in class; more technical information on how to set up and use clickers; and a comprehensive 'ideas' handout which listed a wide range of ways in which student participation can be increased. Some of those aspects really can't be fitted into a short 1hr workshop which might mean we need to think about increasing it to 1hr30m (for example). Or put on another, connected, workshop on, for example, 'Best practice in using clickers' or 'Getting to know Turning Point'. Some aspects, on the other hand (eg the 'ideas' handout) would be easy to compile and provide. I must do that. Anyone reading this blog: why don't you start contributing your own ideas? I'm not sure that I would specifically target any aspect of the workshop to change. However, I will keep my eyes open perhaps for a more challenging reading, or an alternative reading so that two groups can read different texts and interact with their content between them. I also want to get more ideas about the best use of clickers and what makes a 'good' clicker question, and then perhaps revise those slides.

Anyone who attended the workshop, please do use the 'comment' facility with this blog to leave any more reflections, observations, etc. It's an open forum. Thanks!


February 11, 2010

Increasing Student Interaction in Class

I have just prepared next Tuesday's workshop on 'Increasing Student Interaction in Class'. It is the first time this one has been offered and I'm pretty enthusiastic about the topic. So far there are 8 people enrolled, which will just about be enough for me to take the approach which I think is crucial: this workshop, of all workshops, cannot be a pure and simple powerpoint presentation where participants sit and listen! I have to model, so far as I can, what I want to communicate. So I have worked out what I hope will be an hour's session that is almost entirely interactive, and at the times when it isn't, this too has a specific reason and point to convey. The biggest challenge for me, and probably the biggest novelty for the participants, will be the use of clickers, but I'm excited about trying these out for myself. I have to admit my participants will be my guinea pigs, but I've had a good introduction to clickers from Hannah in the Teaching Grid and this context is absolutely perfect for trying them out in safety. I trust that those attending will not eat me alive or the workshop slide into chaos and bedlum! I've done some reading to back up my thinking about the benefits of student interaction in class, although this is fairly familiar territory for me, and I have also spent some time finding and watching a variety of vodcasts on YouTube, especially about the use of clickers in class. Somewhat frustratingly, I haven't actually found a vodcast which actually models good practice in the use of clickers. Most do exactly what I've been at pains to avoid in my session: lots of talk about the benefits, lots of 'presentations', but lamentably little which demonstrates a full-length class where they are integral to the session and where the lecturer models excellent practice. Maybe there's a niche here...

Are there likely to be any other challenges that I have to cope with? Yes, if the clickers don't work, or if I haven't got a sufficiently good grasp of how they are used. I'm always a bit nervous when it's a first time using something, but I have done my prep and the TG staff will be around to help out if need be. I shall go to the Grid at least an hour early to make sure all is in order. I guess another challenge will be if participants flatly refuse to work with me. They have to be prepared to relinquish what might be their tried and tested 'sit and listen' approach. There's no reason to suppose that will be the case, though, and if a problem does arise, then I will work with that as best I can. I have ways and means...!!!

Am I confident about the presentation? (Wrong choice of term, there, of course!) I think, hope, I will be introducing a range of interactive techniques that will inform as well as inspire participants to go on thinking imaginatively and creatively. If I manage to do that, then an important goal will have been achieved. If they then go on to explore and develop these techniques in their own practice, then I shall be very satisfied and excited. I hope people remember to tell me!


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