Teaching Is A Work In Progress

Since I moved to a more administative position I’m doing less instruction, but there will be some opportunities to get back in the classroom. And I’m still teaching MLS students at the local LIS school. But even with more limited contact time with students, I still find it important to read and learn about techniques for improving teaching – or put a better way – how to develop the skills that help others learn. I came across a short reading that provide some good advice for those who consider their teaching a work in progress and in constant need of ideas for improvement. I find that occasional posts over at Tomorrow’s Professor Blog can provide ideas and inspiration. Here is one that I’ve been meaning to share.

One of the pieces of advice I’ve been given is to work to give the students something memorable in each presentation; what’s worse than being immediately forgotten. And this is much harder for academic librarians; we often get just one chance to get it right. If I’m teaching for an entire semester and I’m off a day here and there the odds are I’ll also be brilliant more than a few times. Librarians don’t have that luxury. We have to get it right the first time. In a post titled “How to Create Memorable Lectures” the author reminds us of how little students remember – just 10% of a lecture after 3 weeks. What I like about this piece is that it breaks down the strategy for being memorable into a few steps:
* Get the students’ attention
* Direct the students’ attention
* Avoid Overload
* Create opportunties for review and apply

The article provides more detail, but here are some tips:
* Be an expressive instructor because it will make you more interesting to the students
* Provide an overview of the lecture, but consider a handout the identifies the key points of the instruction session; it will help provide a framework for the session.
* Give students a short break to review notes and formulate questions; consider giving assignments that get students to summarize or paraphrase your important points
* Have students relate information in the lecture to a personal experience

These techniques, and usually other ones that payoff, will no doubt be harder to accomplish. That’s why many educators don’t bother with them and just stick with less labor intensive approaches. But if you want to be memorable, it will take some work.

3 thoughts on “Teaching Is A Work In Progress”

  1. A recent book reinforces several of the concepts included in the article mentioned above and connects them explicitly to the use of PowerPoint. “Clear and to the point: 8 psychological principles for compelling PowerPoint presentations” by Stephen M. Kosslyn (Oxford U Press, 2007) is worth a look by librarians heading to conferences this year as well as those of us heading back into classrooms and our other teaching & learning venues. It is easy to generalize the author’s points to any presentation format we might be creating. I found out about this book on the blog Presentation Zen.

  2. Even a great lecture is often a waste of time. Students forget those brilliant pearls of wisdom.
    I prefer learning tasks. Various projects that require application of the information.
    It’s the same technique used in grade schools, and that is where real learning must take place.
    Writing across the curriculum applies learning tasks. Students must write what they know and that forces and reinforces learning.
    Lecture – he all, ya’ll – what are they good for?

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