Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thinking about thinking

You're giving a 20 minute lecture and you don't want your students to drift away while you're passionately talking about your slides. What would you do? (Let's say "I wouldn't lecture my students for 20 min. in the first place" is not an option.) Apparently, there is a lot you can do to win your listeners' attention. You could ask your students to stretch their legs, for example. Or ask them to take notes and give them some time to check their notes with their classmates at some point during the presentation. You could ask them to write down a few questions about the lecture. Discuss a question, take a short test, brainstorm keywords, watch a video clip, and... reflect, that is, ask your students to "take three minutes to think about what we have dealt with so far." And, of course, remind them to "Stay quiet so as not to interfere with others' reflection."

Reflection is often thought of as a planned activity, a learning strategy, and the list by the University of Sussex clearly illustrates that. It is often an afterthought. The thing is.. all the strategies I mentioned above to engage students are a type of "reflection" as long as we consider students as thinking human beings, consciously or unconsciously. Our reflections could be formal (as in we may be asked to think about thinking) or they could be informal (like asking "are we there yet?" when stretching our poor legs). 

I'm not really against the lecturing method, although it may sound like it because of the way I protest against how the University of Sussex frames student engagement during lectures. (In case you're wondering why I was looking at their website, it all started with a simple search on student reflection in lectures.) So after thinking about (reflecting on) the structure of the assignments on thoughtvectors, I am almost convinced that in formal schooling, what matters most is to allow students ask questions, get them excited about their learning, and help them see the world from a different perspective. Regardless of the pedagogical model--inquiry based, project-based, lecture, etc.--we need to design the learning activities in such a way that reflection must be allowed and encouraged; it should be understood as part of the learning process, at all times. So you might use an inquiry-based approach and but if you don't really have time to attend to the learner experience and work with surprises, what is the point?

I'm still thinking. I need counter-arguments. Please help.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Finally! I had my doctoral dissertation proposal meeting in late December and received formal approval for my study on #thoughtvectors. My research plan and focus have changed quite a bit since summer, so if you'd like to learn more about what I'm doing please check my presentation slides.

Few notes:

- My committee suggested that "a case study using qualitative methods" would be a more appropriate methodological framework for the proposed study (I initially wanted to an ethnographic research).

- My focus will be on the process of open pedagogy. I also shifted my RQs from "what" to "how", thanks to great discussions with my advisors and colleagues and the things I learned in the course in summer.

- I narrowed down my focus to one section only (section 09) because of the amount of data I will work with. However, because all sections (well, everything really) are connected in this class, section 09 will be a starting point to investigate the course in general.

- The committee also suggested that I interview instructors and course participants to better understand the inner workings of the course. I will send invitations for the interviews soon, I would be thrilled if you are interested in having a brief chat with me about the course!

I'm really grateful to those who've kept an open mind and supported this study. I have just finished transcribing the first Google Hangout with instructors and feel inspired. I'm going to put some of the things I've learned/embraced into practice in my class this Spring. So all in all, I have a feeling that this is going to be a great semester, hope yours will be too:)