Sometimes we are so concerned with following our lesson plans to the letter that we miss what is truly important: teaching moments. A teacher has to learn to listen to his or her class and realize when the moment to abandon the lesson plan has come. This willingness to release some control over the class and allow it to develop more or less organically does not always come easily, however. Goal-induced anxiety can make a teacher reluctant to let go of the reins out of fear that the class will go off in some random direction.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
As a college student, I always liked it when I had a course that met in Edwards Hall – if for no other reason than a lot of the classrooms in that building had theater-style seating with chairs that swiveled. The fact that I would remember that after all of these years is an indication of the effect a more welcoming learning space can have on students.
“How many of you would keep listening to a CD—even of your favorite band—if the CD regularly skipped?” That’s the question I ask my students. Although the question keeps evolving (and now that students have abandoned CDs for iPods, I may have to come up with another analogy), my point doesn’t change. Even in pleasurable pursuits, we tolerate distractions or interference only to a degree, after which we abandon the activity.
The 2009 Sloan Survey of Online Learning reveals that online enrollments rose by nearly 17 percent from the previous year. The survey of more than 2,500 colleges and universities nationwide finds approximately 4.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in fall 2008, the most recent term for which figures are available.
There are two common assumptions about teaching online that can sink even the most well-meaning neophyte. One is that “teaching is teaching” regardless of whether it’s face-to-face or online and there’s no reason to deviate from the proven principles that work so well in the traditional classroom. The second assumption is that teaching online is all about the technology, and if you design your course properly, it pretty much runs itself.
Regardless of the size of course enrollments, the key to a successful teaching and learning experience for both the learner and instructor is communication. Clearly defining and communicating the expectations will address the uncertainly of what role and responsibility is required of each participant.
Course management software programs make it especially easy for instructors to provide students with a set of complete lecture notes. It seems that more instructors are doing this, as witnessed in the regularity with which students ask that the instructor’s notes be posted. But is giving students a complete set of notes a good idea?
My students are always asking for opportunities to earn bonus points. I offer a variety of assignments during the semester, but they still want bonus points, which they seem to think are easier to obtain than the required points. Generally, I’m opposed to bonus options because I feel that if students are struggling with the current assignments, they do not need an “extra” assignment for extra credit. In addition, the word “bonus” seems to suggest something for nothing. I want my students to realize that grades are earned, not given. However, I recently tried a bonus activity that benefited my students and also met my expectations for a substantive learning experience.
Sometimes a teachable moment occurs when a student is stuck, other times it’s when a topic has sparked her interest. In an email interview, Eric Frierson, an instructional technology librarian at the University of Texas–Arlington, shares strategies for online instructors to capitalize on both types of teachable moments.
Students can and do regularly disrupt the classroom. Sometimes they are openly hostile, challenging the teacher’s authority and objecting to course requirements and classroom policies. More often, the conflict grows out of their inattentiveness and passivity. They arrive late, leave early, talk during class, and don’t even bother to hide their boredom.