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How it started.

Sometimes things happen and you are made to think about how you actually do something. Something which you have been doing for some time and actually now do on autopilot. This was the case when I was asked to deliver a session on how I create teaching sessions. I soon found myself preparing a PowerPoint presentation, detailing the steps I engage with before I teach. Initially, I thought this might be quite enjoyable since teaching is something which I really consider that I have a passion for and, if module evaluations are to be believed, I might be quite good at. Although creating the session was enjoyable, I’m not completely sure what the audience thought of my process. In order to further reflect on what I delivered and what I actually do, I thought I would write and share my process in a series of blog posts. In this first one, I look at my inspiration and starting points.

As always, if you have any comments about how I do this then please do add your thoughts in the comment section below.

What influences my design

Steve Wheeler (2015), in his book, ‘Learning with e’s‘ puts forward the statement that;

Loads of great information to get you thinking about learning again.

Learning is changing, not at a neurological level, but how they discover, create and share knowledge.

Steve Wheeler (2015)

Learning is no longer, or should be no longer, about a more knowledgeable other stood at the front of a room, preaching a range of facts and analogies for the learners to fill their minds with and subsequently regurgitate at an assessment point. The fact that we all learn in different ways has always been prevalent and discussed, but has this ever made its way into the classroom. Well, I think that this new premise of learning really influences the design of my sessions. I do not want to provide a whole load of facts and transfer knowledge to my students, I want to encourage them to engage, critic, develop and apply the areas of knowledge and, in doing so, gain a better understanding of how the application of knowledge can impact real life situations.

I always ensure that this philosophy is firmly fixed in my mind before I start the design process. So, where do I start?

Let’s start at the very beginning…

Coining the phrase from the film, ‘The Sound of Music’ I always start at the very beginning of the session by returning to the validated document and looking at what the learning outcomes, the indicative content and rationale of the module are. This provides me with a journey map of the learning. I can see where I want the learning to end and, in some cases, which areas I need to visit to get here.

Although this map may be focused mainly on knowledge, it is now that I engage with the learning outcomes which are specifically focused on skills. Checking the assignment title can also provide more information about the skills, especially when the titles include phrases like ‘critically analyse’. From this, I create an overview of the module, mapping out content specific dates, adding tutorials, formative assessment points and summative assessment hand-ins. This is initially always a predicted overview and often this is changed by students as the learning takes place.

Stages of Creation: 1 – What and Why?

Character scratching his head leaning on a question mark

The stages of my creation of a session is then separated into five areas;

  1. What and Why?
  2. What’s new?
  3. Linking to learning
  4. Activities and skills
  5. Reflection

These will form future blog posts, but initially I want to focus on the ‘What and Why?’

Front Cover of the Dynamic Lecturing book by Harrington and Zakrajsek
A great book to bring your lectures back to life!

Harrington and Zakrajsek (2017) in their book ‘Dynamic Lecturing: Research-Based strategies to Enhance Lecture Effectiveness’ state that;

Individuals are most likely to focus their attention when they have high interest in the content being discussed.

Helping students see the value and meaning of the course and how it connects to everyday life may increase their attention, motivation and ultimately their learning

Harrington and Zakrajsek (2017)

With this in mind, I answer two important questions relating to the session – What will the learning be based on and why we are engaging with this learning. The second point is really important to me since it relates to my philosophy of learning. I want to ensure that there is meaning for the session and that the learners will see why and how this can be applied to the module and beyond. If at this stage, I cannot think of a reason for the learning to take place or no relevant connections then I move on and think of different learning.

With the focus of the learning and the application of this learning decided upon, I move onto the next stage – what’s new?

Summary of the post

So within this post I have detailed the five stages of how I create a new session for learning within my modules discussing the first one of these, the What and Why? I have linked this process to my philosophy of learning and what I consider that the focus of learning should be. In the next blog post I will look at the stage called ‘What’s New?’

If you have any comments then please add them in the section below, it is always great to hear other people’s opinions and how they create sessions.

If you are interested in the next stages then please do return or check out my tweets @iwilsonysj.


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