I love stories; stories about life, our personal experiences, the happy and the sad. Stories teach us about how the world sometimes works and how we relate to it. When I was young, I used to love to hear my parents talk about their experiences when they were young. Their stories gave me the opportunity to learn not only about their lives, but also gave me a better understanding of my culture, the traditions of my family, and its history. In a sense, these stories gave me a better understanding of myself. Stories put into context information that would otherwise remain fragmented, pieces of this and that, thrown into a catchall closet in which items are tossed and usually hopelessly lost.
There are purists among us who would say that we should never lecture, but I don’t think that’s terribly realistic, and I’m still not ready to totally rule out lectures. As faculty, we bring expertise to learners and having an expert around when you don’t know something can be very helpful. Do most teachers still talk too much? They do. Are lectures fraught with well-established impediments to learning? They are.
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As a college faculty member, you speak to audiences both large and small on a daily basis. You know how to deliver information, create learning opportunities, and build engagement. And yet, presenting at a professional conference brings a whole new set of challenges. How do you establish credibility and authority among your peers? How do you make your session relevant for those who, unlike your students, have at least some familiarity with the topic?
A recent classroom observation reminded me that student participation can be encouraged and supported by attention to small but important presentational details. In this article I have highlighted these details in the form of questions, and I hope that you’ll use them to reflect on the behaviors you’re using when seeking, listening, and responding to student contributions.
Can we reform teaching and learning throughout higher education one class at a time? I used to think so, but the pace of change has made me less optimistic. I just finished preparing an article for The Teaching Professor newsletter that reports the results of a survey of 744 full- and part-time faculty teaching at eight two-year technical colleges across Georgia. The researchers presented the respondents with a list of 18 instructional strategies and asked them to identify how often they used each one in their last 10 class sessions. Over 90% of the respondents said they lectured for four or more class sessions with more than 50% of those saying they lectured during all 10 class sessions.
In November I had the great privilege of interviewing Parker Palmer. If you don’t know his book, The Courage to Teach, it’s one not to miss. If you haven’t read it in a while, it merits a reread. After reading it again, I found new ideas I missed the first time, old ones I have yet to understand completely and others I hadn’t thought about for far too long.
The recent post on PowerPoint use generated a healthy response. That’s encouraging, but blog exchanges can seem like conversations without conclusions. There is no summary, no distillation, and no set of next questions. And when there are many comments, I worry that those who respond first don’t return to read what follows and those who check in later don’t have time to read all the comments. So for my benefit and yours (hopefully), here’s how I would summarize our exchange on using PowerPoint.
A new study contradicts the widely accepted belief that classroom attention peaks during the first 15 minutes of class and then generally tapers off. Instead, David Rosengrant, an associate professor of physics education at Kennesaw State University, discovered that classroom attention is not as linear as previously thought and is actually impacted by various factors throughout the duration of the lecture.
I’ve had some nagging concerns about PowerPoint for some time now. I should be upfront and admit to not using it; when I taught or currently in my presentations. Perhaps that clouds my objectivity. But my worries resurfaced after reading an article in the current issue of Teaching Sociology. I’ll use this post to raise some questions and concerns about the role of PowerPoint both in the classroom and in student learning experiences.