Friday, February 26, 2021

Hitting the Bullseye - Communicating Effectively with Students

In keeping with the idea that educators are life-long learners, and that we should all be continually engaged in professional development, I'm currently taking a class myself. This week, we were asked to respond to this question:

What is your instructional/communication style, and what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses, as YOU transition into online or blended model?

I firmly believe that each student is very different, and EVERY student should be taught as individuals. After I become familiarized with my class(es), I find each student's area of knowledge and work to build a rapport, a style of communication and interaction that is unique to each student, promoting strong methods of learning, critical-thinking and self-reliance. Students excel in a classroom environment that is supportive and continually invites their curiosity. Allowing open discussion in a tolerant and respectful fashion, developing a natural curiosity for deeper knowledge, and understanding of placing students at the center of their learning experience is my role as an educator.

My instructional style is to actively promote a student’s curiosity through my enthusiasm and relating (in my subject history) the old and its relevance to the new. Building on these connections as well as making my subject come alive brings a genuine excitement. Be it holding a 1796 Broadsheet for texture, smell, or incorporating primary sources, that allows them to make the connection. Add to that what students perceive as cool (getting them to pose questions) prior to a new topic affords the opportunity for them to dig deeper. They take the onus and lend student voice to their learning. The inquiry-based learning model is one I am comfortable with and lends itself to the challenge. Keeping students engaged is an area I consider a strength, however the e-learning component I see as a challenge as well. There is only so much an educator can do without the in-class excitement, enthusiasm, and connection.

One of the greatest challenges I perceive in transitioning to on-line learning involves the flow/pace of student competency. Blended learning involves combining an array of learning strategies between e-learning, autonomous studies, and classroom experience. Take for example, utilizing lectures which are recorded. In many cases, student learning may be negatively impacted, as there is no incentive for students to master the skill and readily move on. Some may be in a holding pattern—catching up on a series of all assignments in a binge day, rather than staying up-to-date and even getting ahead in the curriculum. This may compound into being the normal, rather than the once-in-awhile scenario. Still others do take initiative and yearn for that daily interactive flow. The challenge is to be adept at technology trends, carefully analyzing data (from student feedback/assessments) in your instructional design and a commitment to deliver excellent instructional best practices.