Thursday, September 13, 2012

New Academic Year

As the new academic year gets closer, I start thinking about who the new students will be and how it will be best to teach them. I try to improve my teaching style and techniques each year and to adapt how I teach specific material.

Besides making some of the obvious changes, such as changing which texts I’ll be using and how I’ll approach them and what activities and assignments each class will contain, this year I’m also working on encouraging my students to be more active about their learning processes.

Usually, I ask my students at the beginning of the semester to think about their roles as students and classmates. In other words, I ask them what their contributions to class should be, how they should behave, how they should treat one another, how they should work on their assignments, and so on. (It generally takes a while for them to start coming up with responses to my questions, but once they start, they can’t stop. Come to class, listen respectfully when others speak, take notes, do the homework, use correct grammar, come see the teacher to discuss work, and so on.)

I also ask them to discuss what my role as a teacher is. This often surprises them, because they don’t generally consider the fact that I also have responsibilities. I find it quite helpful for us all to remember that we all have duties towards each other and towards the course, and to spell out what those duties are.

Then, at the end of the semester, I remind them of what we discussed and ask if we met all our responsibilities. Students generally are very pleased to realize how much they actually have accomplished over the course of the term. Also, it is a reminder that they are active members of a joint project (i.e. the course) and that they can contribute towards making the class a success.

This year, I’ve decided to add to this by asking them to write down several goals for themselves. These goals will be seen by no one but themselves but they will revisit them a few times over the course of the semester in order to insure that they are actively taking charge of their learning and their lives.

What changes are you making for this academic year?

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