I’m really glad…

Q: Students lead in U:PASS for a wide variety of reasons – to mentor, to gain leadership skills, to improve communication skills, to get educational experience, to see what it’s like working for UTS.  What’s something you feel you have gained in one (or more) of these areas over the last fortnight? Why? (You may also choose another area if you wish!) 🙂

A: Leading U:PASS session has definitely been one of the best experiences I have ever had. I am so grateful to mentor students and facilitate a casual and relaxed learning environment that is geared towards their needs. The most uplifting thing these past few weeks is seeing shy students gradually gain confidence in themselves, and share this confidence by helping other students. My ultimate goal is to facilitate a learning environment that addresses their academic and social needs, which I believe is important for first year students, as I did also struggle with this. I am really impressed with how inquisitive the students are about (subject/name removed), and how passionate they are about learning at UTS. By seeing their motivation in tertiary education, it has influenced me to keep motivated as a third year student. I’m just really glad to be a U:PASS leader 🙂

 

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It’s ok to do not much….

I remember walking into a leaders’ session a few years ago. All the students were sitting around in a semi-circle, there was a lot of chatting – students were peering over each other’s shoulders, and pointing out things. A couple of students were working on the whiteboard with a bunch of students huddled around.

I couldn’t even see the leader. Eventually I spotted him, sitting back, just letting the students work.

It’s easy to think that the leader is “not earning” their money if the students are working almost without the leader interfering at all. But this is not the case – actually the leader is _really_ earning their money – they’ve facilitated to the point where the students are almost independently learning.

And that’s where we want to get to once the students stop having U:PASS.

So, leaders, it’s ok not to do much…. it doesn’t mean that you aren’t earning your money, it means you’ve worked so hard that they students now take ownership of their own learning.

Really understanding why things are

Great feedback and reflection from a first semester leader:

Q: Students lead in U:PASS for a wide variety of reasons – to mentor, to gain leadership skills, to improve communication skills, to get educational experience, to see what it’s like working for UTS. What’s something you feel you have gained in one (or more) of these areas over the last fortnight? Why? (You may also choose another area if you wish!) 🙂

A: I think I am improving myself to become a better person, sounds weird but I mean it.

Before I became a U:PASS leader, if I really got confused with some questions in calculations, I would simply make my brain to memorise the processes mandatorily without knowing a ‘why’, I would persuade myself, ‘deal with it, that’s just the way it should be. I get the right answer anyway.’ This may also reflect my personality of being too free, if I can achieve the same purpose, I would avoid any difficulties or troubles and pick the easiest way. Being able to choose the easiest way to achieve a goal is good, but if I do the questions for the purpose of only getting the right answers, this seems like beginning at the wrong end. I should do the questions for the purpose of learning something, and getting the right answers is only a way of proving that I understand the things I am learning.

In the U:PASS, since I cannot force students to accept things they do not understand, I need to find a way to make them understand, this is on the basis of I really know the stuff well. Everytime before the U:PASS, I would think what problems students may have and how could I response to make them understand. Just like what we are told in the training, we learn from students, and now I cannot agree more.

I’m not even needed anymore

From a leader:

Q: Students lead in U:PASS for a wide variety of reasons – to mentor, to gain leadership skills, to improve communication skills, to get educational experience, to see what it’s like working for UTS. What’s something you feel you have gained in one (or more) of these areas over the last fortnight? Why? (You may also choose another area if you wish!) 🙂
A: My biggest educational experience this fortnight was that I’ve done my job so well that I’m not even needed by my students anymore! In today’s session we formed a large table and the 10 students sat together around it. One of the students who has attended every week, who typically stresses out that she struggles with the material, knew all the answers to the questions and was teaching her peers all the concepts. The other students actually clapped and cheered her when she was getting everything right. One student said to her “you could teach the class”. I had a big smile on my face that the students had formed such good bonds with each other and also at the progress this particular student has made.

Beyonce brings everyone together

One of the leaders made me laugh today with her session report:

Q: What went well in your sessions this fortnight and why?
A: This fortnight’s session was great overall, but I especially enjoyed Week 6’s session because the topic itself was short so it gave me a chance to sort of do a mini revision quiz on the past few topics. The students seem to enjoy it and thought it was a good way to consolidate their knowledge and also work on problems together. Some of the students thought that the questions were amusing as well, as I was inspired by my iTunes playlist when I was making the worksheets and somehow managed to include a Beyonce-inspired question in the quiz. But long story short, that session was probably one of the highlights during the week as the group interaction was fantastic (Beyonce brings everyone together).

Getting engagement in the classroom

On Monday I went to a Flipped Learning forum where 3 academics talked about how they were getting engagement in the classroom and amongst the students.

I came away with a number of interesting and useful ideas and I thought I’d share a couple here.

One of the academics in Engineering shared about how explicit she makes everything. Engineers are upfront souls generally, I’ve found, soundly pragmatic, and find it hard to sometimes see the point of things that are less technical and more interpersonal/psychosocial. So she makes things clear, like:
– They need to know the types of maths they should be competent in already
– They need a certain amount of hours a week to study, and she gets them to think about that. Too often, we see students trying to work full-time and study full-time. My personal view is that is sheer idiocy. It leaves no room for any form of life – relationships, exercise, downtime, sleep!
– She uses pre-videos that they can watch to get some understanding of what they do and do not know, before they come to class
– She gets them to a pre-lecture question in SPARKplus to be able to highlight how and where they are going wrong – this allows her to emphasise different elements in the lectures depending on what they’re struggling with
– She gets them to participate in problem solving in class

She also had some great analogies. I think that helping students understand where they are on the ladder to understanding and the ladder to passing fits well with the adult learning principles. Helping learners be aware of where they are and how far they need to go to pass is pretty critical. Another thing she did was encourage learners to make mistakes. I think this is also pretty important.

Another element that fits really well in adult learning principles is that she uses real world examples. Adult learners need to understand why they are learning things – fitting theories and problems that are elementary into where they sit in the real world.

The second academic in business shared how in his class, a class on accounting regulations, many students do not have strong reading skills and are often “preparing to hate” it. The class involves subjective judgements and blurry lines, which is hard for accounting students usually focussed on one correct answer. He uses a 4 pronged approach:
1. Provide context for their learning – e.g. how the regulation of charities really matters so funds get where they are supposed to (e.g. the ALS ice bucket challenge)
2. Story telling
3. Real world tasks
4. Support – emailing the students so that they are invited to contact him if they’ve done really poorly after the first assessment

Another thing that he mentioned in support is not calling it a “consultation” but a one-hour drop in class – it means that students are more likely to come by calling it a “class”.

The fhird academic talked about strategies starting from orientation and week 1 to get the students engaging with each other. Such as interviewing each other in the first big class, having lunch at DAB cafe, Facebook interaction, Twitter dedicated hashtag, blog and using Annotate and getting recent alumni back to talk about the jobs they are in and how they got there.

Anyway, I found the whole thing useful and interesting.