Two Pedagogical Patterns
These two patterns are submissions to the Pedagogical
. They cover two situations that are somewhat difficult
for many instructors. They cover similar problems, but at different time scales.
It is intended that these be incorporated into the larger pedagogical patterns
Play Your Strong Suit
You want to do a good job of teaching, but you (or your boss) are
unhappy with your evaluations. You recognize that you need to improve your
effectiveness with your students.
You have strengths and weaknesses. You may speak in a monotone without gestures.
You may get confused on your feet. You may be shy. You may have so little time
to prepare lectures that you aren't effective. You can often train yourself to
overcome your weaknesses, but it takes time -- measured in years. You enjoy doing
some things and not others. There are a lot of different ways to be an effective
teacher, as the pedagogical patterns project is showing. Some of these ways are
surprising to individuals initially. Your personal educational experience perhaps
overly emphasized lectures.
You must be effective in spite of your apparent weaknesses.
Therefore, use teaching techniques that play to your strengths.
The most common instance of this is the poor lecturer. In which case don't lecture.
If it is research that drives you, then base your course on student research.
Above all, remember that you must have ACTIVE STUDENTS, so plan their activities
using STUDENT TASKS FIRST. Also be aware that GROUPS WORK, so you can emphasize
student team activities, rather than lecture. Use student projects, large and
small to activate the students. You can even have the students prepare lectures
one another. A LAZY PROFESSOR can be an effective one.
While you are doing these things to be effective,
you can also work on your weaknesses, of course. in the long run, this can be
the way to excel at teaching.
Change the Tempo
Your students are bored, really bored. So are you. Things aren't going
right in your lecture. The students are whispering to each other or playing games
on their laptops or doodling, etc. You would rather be anywhere else and feel
that you are failing as an instructor.
Sometimes the material isn't captivating. Sometimes you are at a low point. Sometimes
the students have had a long day or have other things on their minds. It is difficult
to motivate the students every moment. However, it is probably important that
they deal with the material you are trying (unsuccessfully) to present, or you
wouldn't have included it in the syllabus.
You need to suddenly become more effective at a point at which it is obvious
to everyone that you are not.
Therefore, change the tempo of the class. If you are
lecturing, stop immediately. Announce that you are going to do something
new and exciting to wake them up and engage them. Do something dramatic in
which they will need to become ACTIVE STUDENTS. A technique that often works
is to have them quickly group (2 or 3 in a group) and either answer a question
or formulate one. After a few minutes you can change the question and rearrange
or combine the groups.
Sometimes you need to do the opposite thing. They are bored working in their
groups. Change the Tempo by reconvening the whole for a mini-lecture, question
and answer sesson, or a wrap-up.
This was discovered in a course on Patterns. The students were bored hearing
about patterns and were falling asleep after a long day. We changed the
tempo by creating this pattern. I thank the class for aiding in the creation
of this pattern.
Other patterns for awkward situations:
Feedback. Don't let a single disgruntled student spoil the course for
everyone. See http://csis.pace.edu/~bergin/patterns/FeedbackPatterns.html
the Plan Go. Something comes up in your course that is really unexpected.
A student has transgressed the boundaries. See http://csis.pace.edu/~bergin/patterns/fewpedpats.html
References to the named external patterns.
Work. See http://csis.pace.edu/~bergin/patterns/fewpedpats.html
Student. See http://csis.pace.edu/~bergin/patterns/fewpedpats.html
Professor. See http://csis.pace.edu/~bergin/patterns/fewpedpats.html
Tasks First. See http://csis.pace.edu/~bergin/patterns/TwoPedagogicalPatterns.html
May 18, 2003