cognitive, community, education, engagement, essential questions, fosters, higher order thinking, instructional strategies, learners, learning, participation, questioning techniques, social icebreakers, student, students, teacher, teaching, techniques, wait, waiting
I had the pleasure of teaching these lovely 18 students this weekend in a 3 day workshop at VCMT. These students were enrolled in the Introductory Weekend Workshop, which is a prerequisite workshop before enrolling for the full-time or part-time programs. The learning objective was to “Perform a safe full body relaxation massage” and the learners did exactly that. They were told at the beginning of the class exactly what they would learn and at the end, it was confirmed by the learners that they learned and fulfilled the lesson objective.
On the first evening, I used an instructional technique such as social icebreakers to warm up the class. I gave the learners a list of questions to ask their partner and vice versa. When everyone completed their interview, I asked the learners to pick 3 questions from the list and introduce their partner. I went first and introduced my teaching assistant and my assistant introduced me. This definitely took the edge off as you can see the decrease in anxiety from young learners’ faces as they knew they didn’t have to talk about themselves. Not only does icebreakers help decrease social anxiety amongst learners, it can actually make an introvert an extrovert. By introducing their partner to the class, pressure is taken off the learner and you can audibly hear the excitement in their voices as they introduce their new friend. It’s truly remarkable. Provitera-McGlynn (2001) states “Most students come to the first class feeling some level of anxiety, and studies show that two of their greatest concerns are whether they will like the teacher and how well they will get along with their fellow students. The first days of the academic term set the tone for the remaining weeks of the semester, so it is essential that teachers make efforts to foster a sense of community right from the very start”. Icebreakers foster a sense of community right from the very start and help start building that positive learning environment where learning occurs.
Mid lesson, I changed my questioning techniques from “Does anyone have any questions?” to an instructional technique such as asking open-ended/essential questions. Some of the questions I used were:
- What is the rationale for doing this technique?
- What kind of conditions can you see this technique beneficial for?
- What would happen if you massaged this person with this condition?
As you can see, I avoided the dreaded question ..”Does anybody have any questions?” Which is sure to get no response. Rather, essential/open-ended questions stimulates learner’s interest and forces higher order thinking amongst learners. By asking essential questions, I had to use a proper pause. This was necessary so learners can think about the question. According to this article, an average of 3 seconds is needed for lower cognitive questions, and more time for higher cognitive questions. I had my little post-it on my desk “W.A.I.T.” ( acronym for Why am I talking?). This forced me to wait for answers and allocated specific wait times for lower level questions versus higher order thinking questions.
OSU.edu states “Wait-time is another crucial factor in questioning techniques. Wait-time can be defined as the amount of time a teacher allows to elapse after he or she has posed a question.” It definitely was challenging to wait for the learners’ answers when asking essential questions. It seemed like an eternity. You can hear a pin drop in the room. But when I waited, it was a success. I had thoughtful and creative answers. By giving learners adequate time to process and think about the essential question, led to insightful answers that furthered asked more questions. Before I knew it, open group discussion was bouncing back and forth. “What if?” “Would this apply to this scenario?” OSU.edu states “Essential questions actively involve students in the lesson. It increases student motivation and interest. It also nurtures insights and stimulate independent learning. It also assesses achievement or mastery of goals and objectives.” Essential questioning techniques helps learners learn. It’s up to us instructors to facilitate and allow time for that process to occur.
I challenged myself this weekend by using another instructional technique and that was to remember my learners’ names as this is another aspect of creating and maintaining a positive learning environment. When learners sense you care, learning naturally occurs. Carnegie Mellon states “Knowing and using students’ names helps to establish a more comfortable, less formal atmosphere in class and shows an interest in your students as individuals. In large introductory courses, TAs who learn names help to reduce the feelings of anonymity and isolation that many students experience.” Just getting to know someone’s name is a special bond you can you make with your learners. Learners feel that they are cared for and nurtured when the instructors calls them by their name. Just that little effort solidifies your positive learning environment. I used word associations, storytelling, and etymology of names to help me remember names. It was successful. I was very happy to learn everyone’s names after the first day of class. I hope to fine tune and utilize these techniques in all my future classes.
Carnegie Mellon (no date, on-line). Tips for Learning Students’ Names. Retrieved on Oct 21, 2014, from http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/resources/studentnames.html
OSU.EDU. (no date, on-line). Questioning Based Techniques: Research Based Strategies for Teachers. Retrieved on Oct. 21, 2014, from http://beyondpenguins.ehe.osu.edu/issue/energy-and-the-polar-environment/questioning-techniques-research-based-strategies-for-teachers
Provitera-McGlynn, A. (2001). Successful beginnings for college teaching: Engaging your students from the first day. Madison, WI: Atwood.