communication · Pedagogical development · Pedagogy

About activating students at the university

Blåsenhus

About two weeks ago I wrote a blog post about a pedagogical course I took, which focused on supervising oral presentations. The fact is that I finished another pedagogical course the week after. That course, (held in the Blåsenhus building seen in the image above) focused on different methods used for activating students in the classroom as well as methods for making sure that the students really engage with all course material. The name of this 1.5hp course (given only in Swedish) is Aktiverande undervisningsformer and it included three whole course days filled with a mix of activities and lectures, and about two days of own work.

During our own work we should come up with a new way to activate students in one of our own courses. I will just provide a short version of my individual assignment solution here. In this case I chose the communications course, given to first year computer science students at KTH, since I have worked with it for almost 10 years and developed most of the content in it during the years 2008-2015. The students have always liked the practical exercises on oral presentations and Writing (the core parts of the course), but they have never really appreciated the more theoretical lectures. The course literature has never really been appreciated either and most students don’t by the course book. During my individual assignment in the pedagogical course I therefore focused on alternative ideas to present the theoretical material and I think the course inspired me to find a good solution (or at least a better one compared to lectures). My new idea is that some of the lectures should be transformed into literature seminars to which groups of students are given a chapter in the course book, and a scientific article related to the chapter, to present to the others. A few open-ended questions could be given to each group to help them prepare and to make sure that the most important aspects are covered in the respective presentations. Since students are already divided into exercise groups of about 25 students each, the same groupings could be used for the seminars. I also proposed a short quiz handed out at the end, with a few questions from each part covered during the respective seminars. This setup would force the students to read the course book and they would most probably engage more with the material. They would probably also learn more when being forced to explain the material to the others. The quiz at the end, which could add bonus points to the final grade, will hopefully make sure that everyone will listen actively to all presentations.

I’m not sure that the idea presented above is feasible and appropriate, but during a presentation at the end of the course, where all participants presented the main points of their individual work, both other course participants and the teachers thought that the idea was  good and should be tested in practice.  I’m not working with the communication course any more, but I will definitely forward my idea to those who are!

I thought I had tried the most when I entered the course, but even when it came to this course I left it with a lot of new insights. I especially enjoyed the parts about problem based learning (PBL) and flipped classroom, since I had never used those methods in practice. The course was very well structured and we were given a lot of time to practice quite a few methods while working in groups we were assigned to at the start of the course. The course really inspired me to rethink my own teaching practice and the transformation of lectures into literature seminars (where the students present theory and practice oral presentations at the same time) is an example of that. Now I just need to find a course where I can implement the flipped classroom approach, because I’m very curious about that method!  🙂

 

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