Central European University A Program for University Teachers, Advanced Ph.D. Students, Researchers and Professionals in the Social Sciences and Humanities Summer University
Copyright © 2003 Central European University. All rights reserved.
Interactive Teaching and Learning Workshops
July 9-20, 2001
In recent years, many advances have been made in the understanding of how we learn. Along with these discoveries came new theories about teaching. Many of these run contrary to the teaching practices in much of the world, especially the traditions in this region.
Education tends to be a conservative discipline, one in which we often teach as we ourselves were taught, rather than in the way we were trained to teach. Many of us go into teaching in higher education without any formal training at all, hoping, at least, that the knowledge of our subject will be sufficient. There is an increasing realisation at both an individual and institutional level that this is probably not the case. Although different subjects may demand different approaches, there are nevertheless many teaching skills which are common to all subjects:
"... management of the teaching environment; use of teaching materials; communication and presentation skills; interpersonal skills; assessment" (Cox 1994:10) - skills that can be learnt to the benefit of both teacher and learner.
These workshops are designed to explore our own teaching beliefs as well as different approaches to teaching in order to bring greater meaning into the learning process of our students, whether in the lecture hall or the seminar room. We will be using a variety of methods to do this, ranging from mini-lectures and discussions to small group activities and individual tasks. Much of it will be experiential, and you will be provided with plenty of hand-outs to back up what we do.
Each workshop will deal with a different aspect of our work in higher education, and although there is an underlying thread running through all the workshops, you can join any or all of them.
Workshop 1. Teaching, Learning and Assessment
In this first workshop, we will be exploring the links between teaching, learning and formal assessment. We will try and answer the following questions:
(Smyth 1991:116 quoted in Williams & Burden 1997)
We will look at the latest research about how we learn, and compare this with the way we teach. We will then investigate our assessment methods to see the effect this has on the quality of our students’ learning. Are we sending the right messages to our students to encourage them to learn for the future at a deep level, rather than at a surface level for the sake of the exams?
The issues raised in this workshop will be recurring themes in the later workshops, as they underpin everything we do in our lectures and seminars.
Workshop 2. Learning-centred seminars
The purpose of the seminar in higher education is for teachers to be able to follow up in greater detail, with a smaller group of students, what was initially presented in a lecture. Ideally, seminar groups allow the students "to negotiate meanings, to express themselves in the language of the subject, and to establish a more intimate contact with academic staff than more formal methods permit." (Jaques 1984:9). In practice, however, seminars can often pose a problem for teachers and lecturers, as learners are often reluctant to contribute to the discussions. or some students dominate while others do not say a word.
This workshop will look at the notion of group dynamics and its importance to learning. We will also see how learning and teaching styles need to be taken into consideration when planning successful learning-centred seminars. As we do this, we will be experiencing different group formations, methods of grouping and other seminar room techniques to illustrate what we mean by learning-centred seminars. We will also work on some of the professional interpersonal skills that promote true interactive teaching and learning.
Workshop 3. Interactive lectures
In most institutes of higher education, lecturing is the most traditional form of teaching. In the last decade or so, however, a lot of doubt has been expressed about its effectiveness. Research has revealed that students could gain knowledge just as well by other methods, that lectures cannot replace hands-on experience, they do little to change attitudes or develop new ones towards their particular subject, and that on the whole they are unpopular with students and lecturers alike! (Gibbs & Habeshaw 1989). While they may be unpopular, many "learners normally regard lectures as very important"(Race & Brown 1993:50), and since they are not likely to disappear from higher education, it makes sense to consider ways in which to make them a more meaningful learning experience for our students.
We will look at concentration spans and optimal learning times, the importance of breaks and how to activate the students during them. We will attend to our own presentation skills and the layout of our lectures in order to rouse and maintain the students’ interest. Finally, we will consider the handouts we provide and how we can use them interactively to generate learning as well as serve as a memory aid.
Caroline Bodoczky has been living and working in Hungary for over 30 years. She is an English language teacher, but in recent years has been a teacher trainer and trainer trainer at the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. She regularly runs mentor training and trainer training courses abroad. She is currently Head of the English Language Department at the International Business School, Budapest. She has written a number of books and contributes regularly to the professional literature. Her latest, prize-winning book, co-authored with Angi Malderez, Mentor Courses, a resource book for trainer trainers, was published by Cambridge University Press in 1999.