Monday, November 29, 2010

Active learning

"There is no such thing as an unmotivated student. There are, however, students in unmotivated states" -- Eric Jensen. I truly agree with this statement. This is one of the common challenges that teachers face everyday. How do we deal with students in unmotivated state? I think this problem is more prevalent in a teacher-centered classroom environment, i.e., the traditional lecture method in which teacher/lecturer talk and students listen. In my class, I try to promote active learning approach. I try to incorporate some elements of active learning strategies, for example talking and reflecting. For example, at the beginning of each lecture, I will ask a volunteer to give a summary of pertinent points covered in the previous lecture. I allow the student to reflect on the central points of the class session and if necessary I will add some additional points. This will allow the students to connect what they have learned in the previous lecture and what they will learn in that particular lecture. I intersperse my lecture with questions designed to allow students to reflect on important points I have highlighted during the class session, share their reflections with surrounding classmates, and briefly discuss the insights gained from this activity as a group before continuing with my lecture.

J.P. Downing in his book "Creative Teaching: Ideas to Boost Student Interest" listed 30 tools for creative teaching (page 44). I will just summarize here: Storytelling, seminars, discussions, puzzles, problem solving, designing, ensemble design, dramatic reading, question reading, question stringing, story writing, creative elaboration, description, imagination, readers theater, choice mapping, ethical dilemmas, collaboratibe inquiry, case studies, reconstructive writing, fictional narrative, fictional correspondence, simulations, discovery labs, role-playing, scripts, ensemble biographies, enactments, and schematizing.

The author also listed six skills for creative teaching: managing, presenting, questioning, designing, running activities, and relating.

We can also leverage the technology such as clickers to get an instant feedback from the students. In the video below Dr Steve Vaisey shares his experience using an audience response system to engage students in active learning.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Aspiring to be like Walter Lewin

Albert Einstein said "It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge". Indeed, boredom can be a student's greatest enemy! I believe in making learning fun and exciting but effective. It’s not always easy especially if you are teaching a “dry” subject such as physics or mathematic. It requires careful thought and planning. You may have seen Professor Walter Lewin of MIT giving his physics lecture – he is simply…incredible! You have to watch the video (below) on how he conducted his lecture and listen to the interview on his passion and enthusiasm in teaching. He is proud to be a teacher -- a professional teacher. "Teaching is my life", he said. I think all teachers should aspire and strive to be a dedicated teacher like him. I believe the hallmark of a good teacher is the ability to inspire the student to learn. A quote from William Arthur Ward: "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrate. The great teacher inspires". And as Professor T.S. Andy Hor, National University of Singapore put it: “There are only four types of professors: they make student sleeps, sad, angry or hungry for more”. So what kind of professor or teacher are we?

And here's the interview:

Excellence in Teaching & Learning

This is my presentation entitled "Achieving Excellence in Teaching & Learning". I have presented the topic in different versions at various places. Content in brief: What are the issues regarding teaching and learning? What are the challenges facing education systems that have a direct impact on our graduates? How can traditional modes of classroom instruction engage and inspire students when life outside the classroom has changed so dramatically? This presentation attempts to cover some of these issues.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Art of Presentation

As a lecturer, I have given tons of lectures. As a researcher, I have also given quite a number of presentation in seminars and conferences as a speaker or keynote speaker. However, after almost 16 years, I still feel that there's more room for improvement. I'm still honing my presentation skill. There are a few books available on using PowerPoint to deliver good and engaging presentation. Here's one: Why Most PowerPoint Presentation Sucks by Rick Altman. The following presentation from Slideshare gives some useful tips on the art of preparing good presentation.

Effective presentation skills: Using eye contact

Eye contact is the most effective presentation skill to reduce your nervousness. The best way for you to implement eye contact is to connect with one person for a sustained thought. That would be from the beginning of a sentence, until there's punctuation like a comma or a period. When you finish the sentence, you'll want to move your eyes to another person and repeat the process. Learn more...

The Don'ts of PowerPoint

I have listened to countless presentations and I would say that 99% of them are....dull and boring! The problem is not with the software - whether it is Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote - it boils down to the presentation and the presenter. Here's is a funny video "How NOT to do PowerPoint" by Don McMillan - it may be funny but he correctly highlighted many pitfalls of "modern" day presentation. We can learn something from him...

Here's another one (more recent one with more jokes on using PowerPoint).