Form your own teaching style

I feel one of the most important things for one teacher is to form your own teaching style. Everyone wants to be a most welcome person and someone will learn from those popular people. However, people like a character/host in the TV because he/she has his/her own personality rather than he/she can speak jokes all the times. So it is the same for the teaching. Students will like you because you have your own teaching strategy and attracting personality. It is very inspiring to read “different response strategies (from teachers) were equally effective (for students)” in Deel’s paper. No matter what style you are, explained your strategies to your students at the beginning of your class. Therefore, students can understand your philosophy and evaluation style, so they can easily to follow you in the class and learn from your response on their performance. On the other hand, since you behave as yourself in the class, which provide you confidence and comfortable to talk and answer student’s questions.

Once a teacher finds out his/her teaching style, he/she is ready to learn from other’s lectures and try to infuse their advantages into his/her teaching strategy. One of my friends who is an new instructor in a college has told me her feeling about teaching: have presentations three times a week. It is funny but it is true. Each teaching can be considered as a presentation for students. Thus, new instructors can improve their teaching start with how to improve their presentation skills. Use bullet instead of long sentence, have a clear structure, using picture instead of words if possible, and try to add some “game” section…… All these presentation skills can be used to improve our teaching. Besides, do not forget who you are talking with. Think about what students are really needed to obtained from your lecture and communicate with them more effectively. For example, if your students want to improve their speaking in English, it is better to design more talking sections under different situations rather than putting too much time in analyzing grammar. It is beneficial to learn from Fowler’s paper: the average attention for young people ranging from 18-35 years of old is only 15 mins, so it is helpful if organizing the class in 15-20 min segments and inserts various activities.

Of course, a teacher needs to discover which teaching strategies and techniques work best through practice. But as long as an instructor keeps learning from student’s response and regulates teaching method according to different classes and different students, everyone can find out their own teaching style and transmit their teaching voice.

Turn your lectures to different games

It is very inspiring to learn from this week’s reading materials that teachers can turn their lectures to a big game for stimulating students’ learning interests. Traditional education did not have so much fun in the classroom. Students were asked to be serious in the class (when I was young) and the way of learning never changed year after year. Students felt learning was boring and even a burden. However, in the new century, how to design an interesting class is one of the most important things in education. Rather than traditional group project and individual assignment, students were asked to play a game by applying knowledge they had already learned or searching the information they needed during the game. Students were more involved in the “game project”; they showed more interests, be more focus on their work, and put more effort to solve the problems, because it was a game and they want to play it! Teachers and parents always complain that the kids spend too much time on internet and video games. But why don’t integrate games into the learning process and make lectures as fun as playing games? Therefore, design a game as part of the lecture or infuse a game into the lecture may be an effective way to stimulate student’s interests and keep them actively involve into the learning process.

How to add “games” into a lecture? Teachers can utilize the characteristic of different subjects. For example, when I was in middle school, my English teacher asked us to remember the “dialogue section” in the test book. But instead of reciting it, she would let us to choose one of the characters from the dialogue and play it as a drama. Since we all try to be good “actor”, so most of my classmates put a lot of effort to recite it and practice it at home. The science (physics, chemistry and biology) teacher can design a game in the lab time or take students to visit the museum. The Science and Technology museum itself is a big game center. Students can find models of air planes, analog equipment of fluid mechanisms, and dinosaur fossils. They can play with the power generator that they learned from class and watch hatch process of chicken in a transparent incubator. It is great sample show students how to utilize the knowledge from test book in real world, and students are better understand and remember these knowledge by take part into it. As shown in the video, computer teachers can let students to design a video game themselves. Students will not learn the basic usage of computer/software but also extend their ability in organization, creativity and imagination during this process.

To sum up, in order to inspire student’s learning interest and motivation, teachers themselves are need to actively involved into the teaching process first. Teachers could learn from successful experiences of other instructors, information from social media, and what is popular during students such as video games. As long as to integrate the idea- adding fun/imagination into lecture, teachers can create a attracting learning environment and keep students mindfully learning inside.

Diverse ways of grading for a diverse education

I was graded for my homework and exams from primary school to PhD courses all the time, but this is the first time I sit down and think carefully about what grading brings to me. As grown up in China, I was evaluated by “numbers” for almost all of my academic work and I paid attention to these “numbers” heavily since they decide whether I can go to a better middle school, a better high school and finally a better college. Like most Chinese students, I was trained to grasp those “exam skills” to grab more points in exams, even though what I wrote did not make sense to myself sometimes. Every time after an exam, there are always some students go to argue their score with teachers, which really looks like a bargain in grocery store. Although many educators in China advocate education reform for years, our education system still rely on grading for college admission since students have such a diverse background and grading is a relatively “fair” way to evaluate each student’s ability. However, after students are enrolled in college, teachers and students still too focus on the scores to neglect their motivations and goals for learning. For example, teachers only tell students their scores of final exam, but they rarely send out right answers to students or explain those questions after exam, which is really ridiculous in education.

I also ask myself: do I have an experience of learning without grading? The answer is yes. I attended a writing class when I was in middle school to improve my writing skills. The class only had around 10 students and we met once a week at weekend. The teacher gave us a lecture each week and then asked us to write a composition as assignment. However, we never had exams and this teacher never grading our composition. Instead, he only wrote comments and gave suggestions in the part that he thought we need to improve. He also never compared each other’s work because he thought each of us had our own style, but he would like us to share our compositions to each us and to learn from each other. In this way, we did not feel any pressure about this class and each of us was highly involved in this class since everyone was praised by the teacher each week for the good part in their work and inspired by the comments to improve the weak part in their writing. This case also reminds me of Ken’s video (how to escape the education death valley) we watched last week. Education should be a diverse environment, each student had his/her own characteristic/background and each of them should be educated based on his/her characteristic. Rather than simply evaluate students’ work by numbers, teachers should help students to find out their advantage and weak points in a subject and encourage them to improve their weak parts. It may be more helpful if teachers can stimulate student’s learning interests by forming a “friendly” competition in class, encouraging students to pump out different thoughts without worrying to lose their points, and guide students to focus on the knowledge itself rather than their performance in one exam.

Ways help me to learn mindfully

It is my first time to know the terms “mindfulness” and “mindlessness”. I am happy to find these two terms perfectly summarize my previous learning experiences: learning actively and learning negatively. Langer’s article provides us a clear definition of mindlessness, which is to “act like automatons who have been programmed to act according to the sense our behavior made in the past, rather than the present”. This reminds me a true story of myself. When I was in primary school in China, my six-year math teacher always gave us a lot of assignments before final exam and these assignments were actually repeating the same questions over and over again (since some of these questions would be present in the final exam). I was so familiar with these questions and I even did not notice that some of the number was changed in the exam. I lost points because I wrote down answers without thinking—I recited them due to repeating them over and over again from my assignments. I am not the only one lost points due to this reason- half of the class did the same thing with me. It sounds ridiculous that people do their exams without thinking, but if their education based on feeding knowledge without thinking and participation, the results of their learning is nothing.

After reading Langer’s papers, I start to think about was there any way helps me to learn mindfully in my previous experiences? The answer is yes. The first method I think of is to insert some jokes that related to the lecture. One of my English teachers likes to tell us some jokes during his lectures since he believes that students will lose their attention every 15 minutes. But most of his jokes related to his lectures such as misuse of a word or misunderstanding between different cultures. He used these “mistakes” to tell us that one English word may have various meanings and encouraged us to explore the usage of each new word. In this way, he turned a boring recite work into a fun learning process. Besides, in analyzing characters in literary masterpiece, he also likes to inspire us to assume each character’s inner activity and even play this character. This largely stimulated our interests in learning classic literary. The second method is to make the lecture compact and easy to follow. One of my physics teachers had a fast-space in his class, which means the sections he talked that day were closely related to each other and each section was actually the transition for the next one. So there is no much time for students to distract. What I felt was once you got into it, you just kept involving in it. Also, he was good at using analogy to explain physics terms, which was really easy to understand and trigger students’ interests. The third way is to do a group project. One of my group projects in high school was to find out a topic we interested ourselves and try to use all kinds of methods to solve this problem (such as library, ask teachers and internet). This work is like to combine interdisciplinary study and connected learning. During this process, each of us figures out how to use ways outside classroom to learn. Similar with peer-relationship in connected learning, we shared information we collected each day and how we get it, and to inspire each other to explore possibilities. In addition, as what Langer talked in the paper, we always felt we know very limited in this topic that time and we were encountering something novel every day. Therefore, each of our team members approached our project mindfully each day.

For teach mindfully in the future, it may be helpful for teachers to keep students’ curiosity by providing more options in doing a project/option, more probability when introducing a concept, and more perspectives in explaining a statement. As both Langer and Ken Robinson talked about, how to teach students with different cultural backgrounds is also important for students to learn mindfully, and is worth for each teacher to consider before giving the lecture.