Some interesting questions for me from the session were, how do I (the lecture) in my large classes know they (the students) are stuck, i.e., encountering troublesome knowledge, and how can I help them become unstuck?
I’m putting my “use to teach large groups hat on”
My idea struck an accord with some learning technologies and approaches being used at the University of Bath.
The how do I know they are stuck is the relatively straight forward, and Ray focussed on the efficiencies from using clickers (audience response). A set of questions mapped against the key concept (or identified troublesome knowledge) would work very nicely. This would indicate to the lecturer and the student if they are achieving the threshold concepts. This could be further enhanced by getting the students to write the questions, and I, the lecturer select a few.
The above is starting to be explored in Computer Science by Alan Hayes et al., and funded through last years Dragon’s Den
The question is, what do you, they, do to get them unstuck? Yes, Ray suggested re-visit the concept using a different approach / media / style. Also the message came across thatI could encourage them to take more responsibility as independent learners (Nicol et al.,).
However, how do I make this more explicit? A couple of things springg to mind, firstly, a common message from the presentation was the way to learn troublesome knowledge was to teach it. Now, this might not work given logistics. However, the next best thing might be to mark it. As students are required to understand the concepts, the marking criteria etc., So, peer assessment activities would be a very useful tool to use. I would introduce a number through the course. So also creating the opportunity of ongoing / continuous assessment compared to one piece of coursework and an exam.
Another requirement is engaging the students to take some responsibility as independent learners. This is key to help motivate participation. Thinking of this made me think of Cassie Wilson’s work on the feedback agreement (another Dragon’s Den funded project). Perhaps a feedback (honour) agreement could be drafted around how we would work through the unit.
So on reflection, if I was still teaching large classes, I might be able to start designing my curriculum to ensure I can identify when people become stuck around certain key concepts and thresholds and use certain approaches to facilitate students working together to overcome these blocks. There are still some issues I face, prticularly in terms of how this implemented, however, that would be for a later post.