I recorded a one-hour tutorial slot with my Science Communication students. The class (one stream) consists of about 25 first year undergraduates and takes place in TLC Tutorial Room 4. This recording was taken on 27th September.
I began the class by introducing the topic of the session, the aims, and explaining how the session would be structured. Although I feel I did this clearly, this was an obvious missed opportunity to incorporate a ‘bridge in’ and pre-assessment in line with the BOPPPS model of lesson planning. Instead, I ploughed straight into the material (Part 1, 0:18). Although time is tight in a 50 minute class like this, the topic lends itself to a simple bridge activity such as offering a choice of two newspaper headlines on a powerpoint slide, and asking them to vote for which they thought sounded most interesting/engaging - and why. This would have served to get them interacting with the topic at the outset, and their responses about ‘why’ would likely have revealed how much they know about the purpose of a newspaper headline.
I am reassured that my diction is mostly clear, and that my pace and tone conveys enthusiasm, which is what I am aiming for. However, I feel I speak a little too fast sometimes - especially with a non-Trini accent. For the most part my slides were simple and not too crowded. However, I could have put more effort into making them attractive or eye catching with some more relevant photos or clip art. I also wish I had been able to give some more real examples during the writing recommendations, to illustrate some of the points instead of speaking in abstract terms, For example when explaining metaphors and similes (Part 1, 14:30). I remember at the time coming to a blank when trying in the heat of the moment, but more thorough lesson planning would have encouraged me to think of these in advance. Alternatively, this could have been an opportunity to involve the students by asking them if anyone could provide an example. Not only would this have made the concepts clearer to the students, it would also have brought this whole section of the class to life a bit more.
In the absence of a bridge in, the recording shows that it was over 15 minutes of solid ‘lecturing’ before any student interaction was required (Part 1, 15:45). Although this is just about acceptable for their attention spans, I feel that this content lends itself to more interactive teaching, and it would not have been too hard to break it up further with some quick questions. This is interesting for me to reflect upon, as at the time I considered this to be a fairly student-centred and interactive tutorial.
I asked students to read one of a selection of real newspaper articles from the local and international press, and critique it according to the points I had just listed. They were asked to write down one thing they thought had been done effectively, and one thing that they would improve. I tried to get students who were sitting next to each other to have the same article so that they could discuss; however, miscommunication with the demonstrator meant that this didn’t really happen. In future, I would allocate them to groups of 3-4, and try to engineer cooperative learning (Kaufman et al., 1997). One way to do this would be to give each group member a different 2 points/themes to concentrate on for their article, and then they could do a form of ‘jigsaw’ learning by taking turns to tell other group members their thoughts on their assigned themes (i.e. narrative tone, quality of headline, use of quotations etc). Then, a combined post-assessment would be for one member of each group to communicate key points to the class. The summary could have been to then ask them to rank the importance of the key points. Or, maybe, which consideration will they pay special attention to while writing their article, and how?
As it was, the discussion comes across as a bit stiff. I begin by asking them to state their name, but then I ask them another question, preventing them from answering with their name (Part 1, 26:20)! The students were participating, but I noticed that I sometimes (perhaps due to nerves) respond too quickly to their comments, cutting them off before they have finished in some cases (Part 2, 0:49 – 9:16), which probably exacerbates this. In future I will consciously allow a pause between the student finishing their contribution and my response to encourage a more organic and flowing discussion. This would help learning, as the students might engage more deeply if it was a genuine, student-led debate, instead of simply saying something to make me happy.
Generally, I am happy with the content of this tutorial. Critiquing a newspaper article is a good introduction to the assignment they are set at the end of the tutorial (writing their own newspaper article for a local audience) as it helps them to think about a newspaper from the perspective of the reader as well as the writer. However, I think I could make the ‘lecture’ component more interactive, by asking for examples from the students, including a good bridge-in activity at the start, and turn the article reading task into cooperative learning. On a personal level, I need to get better at facilitating discussions so that they are more student-led. I think writing down a detailed lesson plan will help, as I will feel more relaxed and in control about the timings of the various segments and consequently come across as calmer too.
This is a place where I can reflect upon both on my teaching experiences as a new lecturer, and on my learning experiences as a student on the Certificate of University Teaching and Learning course.