Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Sometimes Educators can be their OWN Worst Enemies.

Abstract Picture of a Book
I am an associate professor of Learning Technologies at the University of Northern Iowa. 

One of the classes I teach is an educator preparation course where we prepare future teachers to use technology to support learning in their classrooms. This course is provided in a T-Th 50-minute session format. 

A couple of years ago, we changed our class into a blended format. We provided the weekly lectures online so we only needed to meet for 2 days to work in our labs.  The learning strategy was that our students would read, watch, or listen to the foundational material for the week and then watch the video lecture which was between 20 - 40 minutes long. On Tuesdays, the students would break into their working groups of 3-4 individuals and discuss what they learned in preparation for this class session. 

At the beginning of the semester, this worked well. Most of my 35 students followed the learning strategy and came to our Tuesday class prepared to discuss the topic at hand.  It might be Global Collaboration, Digital Citizenship, Systematic Instructional Design, Classroom Computing, or any of a large selection of topics. 

Today's Discovery
Today, I noticed the discussions seemed strained and asked how many of my students had read the material and watched the lecture. Only 6 students raised their hands. I asked why, and they told me that they did read and watched the content after our Tuesday class. They learned a great deal in the lecture/discussion I held on Tuesday so they could use that knowledge as background for their learning.

I examined how I had run the Tuesday classes.  Instead of asking my students to provide the content for the discussions, I was providing an overview of the content in a slideshow.  This provided a source for content other than the aforementioned resources . This meant that I was completely undermining the classroom discussion pedagogy because my students were not coming prepared.  

Having realized the problem, I discussed the situation with my students.  I made it quite clear that I was not criticizing them or blaming them for the situation.  I pointed out that this was an example of a teacher working against themselves. They needed to pay attention to situations like this when they have their own classrooms and are organizing their learning environments. 

From Here Forward
One of the things that my students liked was discussing content with their group. I pointed out that if they didn't prepare for the discussion properly, they wouldn't have anything to discuss. I didn't want to deprive them of their discussion.
Before we moved on to the rest of the class, I told the students that I would be changing my teaching strategies for the rest of the semester. I would no longer present the content material but rather discuss the content with them after they had had a chance to discuss it with their group members. 

I look forward to next Tuesday to see how the discussion goes and whether or not their quiz scores have increased.   Will keep you informed.

                                                                                image: pxfuel