Over the past few years I had been holding CETaL’s Head, also becoming the practitioner of SCL in my own class, there are several things that I noticed that I learned over the experience I had. As such, I’d like to share with all of you prior to the start of the semester, so we can improve our classroom deliveries.
1. Start small, and gradually increase it over time. Don’t overkill it.
Some people observed that I have been doing things very fast, moving from active learning towards PBL etc. I have a reason for that. If I move slow, it is difficult for others to move because I’d not be able to share much examples. Thus, if I do it fast, I can try to enhance my experience doing it, share with all of you so you can start at natural pace. The key important point here is , increase gradually over time. Please don’t do at my speed unless you’re being trained well. If you just attended active learning training once, do not push yourself to do beyond the books end division model, such as doing JIGSAW for example. The Jigsaw activity is a formal cooperative learning technique, where you’ll learn the details in the second part of the training (cooperative learning). I notice that because of the lack of explanation or the way how the staff conduct jigsaw, students found it to be inefficient because they felt that they had to do the teaching and the lecturers are not teaching them at all. So the techniques such as think pair share, brainstorming or pair note taking are reasonable enough to be conducted as the intermediate activities in between 50 mins lecture.
Please do not conduct any kind of problem based learning (PBL) or project based learning adopting cooperative/collaborative learning or flipped classroom if you had not attended the training once, or at least your teaching partner has already attended them and able to coach you doing the facilitation. If you’re doing it alone, restrain yourself from doing it unless you’re trained. You can still achieve the stretch (I know that many want to achieve great, which is good!) of doing active learning, by simply adopting some simple tools in your class (such as padlet, kahoot, Socrative, mentimeter etc etc), and disseminating your practice either at the departmental level or CETaL COP.
2. Don’t simply do SCL- we need to reflect and measure its effectiveness
One typical failure of SCL or any kind of intervention being done in the class is our failure to self-reflect the activities that we’ve done and how it has improved the students’ learning. Usually, we have a tendency to use this and that techniques and fail to see whether the students are really getting something out of it. Thus, it is important for us to gather some reflection from the students for example (1 minute paper for example), look at their performance be it in cognitive, psychomotor or affective domains and self-reflect ourselves, what could be done better or what goes wrong with what I’ve been using before. On the SCL implementation techniques, there’re more than 1000 scholarly papers out there that you could refer on their successful implementations and we can always learn from these scholars to improve our deliverables.
3. Collaborate among the instructors
I noticed that some of the courses divided the groups of students and two or three different lecturers will teach from week 1 until week 14 for different groups, and there are also practices where turn teaching is adopted i.e. split 14 weeks into two, the first half covered by one lecturer and the next half covered by other.
For the first practice, consistency is very important. If one class is doing AL, it is advisable for other classes to use similar practice too. Students will complain if they found that one lecturer do extensively compared to another lecturer. Therefore, it is important for the instructors to collaborate in terms of the assignment given, type of activities etc etc. As we’re aiming for collaborative students, why in the first place that we’re not collaborating and be in SILO?
As for the second practice, it is not advisable to do so as the students will perceive the first 7 weeks and the last 7 weeks are totally disintegrated and they’ll see it as a different subject. How extensive the second part lecturer had to do depends on how good is the understanding of the students in part 1. At the same time, the lecturers failed to create a good relationship with the students within the short period, hence deteriorating the quality of the classroom management. This will create more resistant among the students if the second part use SCL while the first part is highly teacher centred.
Collaboration among the instructors be it for one single subject or to come out with integrated project for few courses, are advisable. For the past two years we had been working on integrated PBL/project based learning, and we had reduced tremendously the burden of a single lecturer preparing everything (rubric, assessment, case study, communication with students etc.)
4. Don’t be deceived by the complaints
We know that some of the students are highly resistant to SCL approaches, but there are only small numbers of vocal students. If and only if the complaints come from the majority of the students in the class (which perhaps indicating that we had been doing something not right in the class), we should realise that we cannot please everyone. There are students who will not like it in the first place or they are at a bottom part of the trauma cycle (you’ll learn more about this trauma cycle in cooperative learning training), therefore, we should always try to motivate them. Using some TED talk from the YouTube may help to boost their motivations in learning. Perhaps this link can be useful to you (check first with the class whether they’ve watched them or not)
Life is a marathon not a sprint 🙂
Remember that while 10% are angry at what you’re asking them to do, the remaining 90% will one day come to you and say Thank You.
5. Provide CLOSURE
There are reasons why sometimes you receive a large number of complains in the class for some type of activities that we conducted. Firstly is because the amount of work given is burdening and taxing the students, and we had not given them appropriate scaffolding. Assigning a huge chunk of project at week 1, leave the students to deal with it without proper scaffolding/guidelines, and expect them to submit in week 14, no one will like it. Hence a proper meeting to check their progress from time to time, to motivate them to complete it is very important. Peer rating is also important, there are ways to do it, and you’ll discover more in training part 2.
For any kind of SCL activities, please do a proper closure. The students need assurance of what they had learnt is correct. Otherwise they’ll be left hanged and unsure whether they’re learning correctly or not. Please allocate 10 minutes to recap back what they had done and what they had learnt before allowing them to leave the class.
I think that’s all for now. Will share more later! Thank you.
Assoc. Prof. Mohammad Tazli Azizan, PhD, DIC
Head, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS
Seri Iskandar 32610