Teaching lunch

18 September 2015

Having spent a relaxing couple of hours at the Med School acting as a test subject for people learning to do ultra-sounds, I caught up with a few good teachers for lunch (Andrew, Angela, and Rhiannon; Lisa was teaching so she could not be there).

I talked a little bit about how, in BUSINESS 102, there was some student feedback that they would like to be able to use their phones in class. I did not really understand that feedback, as in the two streams I am teaching, there is little if any phone use. However, the day before I had done a ‘guest’ session for a colleague, and was very surprised at the number of students using their phones during the class. It must have been half of them.

This led into a conversation about our role (as teachers) in the class room and whether lectures serve any real purpose. I have always questioned my role in the class room … why am I there and what is the best use of my time and the students time when we are together. For a long-time now, I have know that that is not to deliver content per se. Rather, as I have said elsewhere, and probably too frequently, I see my role as seeing where students thinking ‘is’ and helping them move forward. Often this takes the form of helping them when they misunderstand content, or to help them have a more nuanced appreciation of the content. It certainly, for me, is not about “telling them stuff”.

Andrew is increasingly of this view, and is struggling with how he my move into, what some might call, a more active classroom.

He and I are also ever more conscious that we have a big motivational role; our enthusiasm for the topic really matters. It makes a difference to how the students engage with the material, and–dare I say–with each other in the class. I was particular struck by this issue in the recent ‘fast feedback’ from BUSINESS 102. So many of the students (in my 8:00 and 16:00 classes) commented on my energy and enthusiasm as one of the most important positive contributions to the class.

I also think that it is the case, as Julia Novak has pointed out on many occasions, that modelling how to think like a manager (or in her case, a mathematician) is important too. Actually, I have to ride two ponies; showing how to think like a manager and as an organisational studies academic–they are not the same thing. But given where most of my students will end up–in business–it is probably better to emphasise the former rather than the latter.

Anyway, it was good to catch up with such good teachers. They always leave me so enthused about teaching.