Term 1 teaching strategy

This term, I am teaching three courses with about 150 students in total. I will record in this journal my thoughts about the teaching that I conduct, as well as the teaching I receive, and the learning I make!

My three courses are Introduction to Public Relations, Media Writing and Communication Project. I am aware that the university is pushing very hard for lecturers to obtain student feedback for their courses. It is expected that lecturers get 50% of students to feedback about the course and that a rating of 4/5 or above is expected. This is a lot of pressure for a lecturer. As my readings for OLTC20003 have established, the student cohort has myriad motivations for undertaking their courses. Combine this with attrition (which in the field of professional communication is high because our students obtain fulltime employment before finishing their degree) and the university is setting up the lecturer to fail. I can recognise that the requirement of student feedback and the high rating is perhaps meant to be a motivation for the lecturer, but I believe it is unrealistic. However, I have never been one to knock back a challenge, so I will try.

Last year, I managed to achieve the target for my courses, but there was a lot of cajoling of students to provide the feedback. I am very reluctant to take that approach again. Nagging students results in less respect, not more. So this year I have a new strategy.

I have personally telephoned all of my students during Week 1. I have spoken to them all. I have welcomed them to the course and I have made sure they have everything they need to get them started in the term. I have pointed them to the course profile and to Moodle, I have congratulated those who have already started posting and I have answered any questions they might have had. Whilst this was a big time commitment, I feel as though it has been an investment of time. Fully half of the students said that it was the first phone call they had ever received from the university. Most were quite chuffed that I had taken the time to call. A couple have flagged potential issues for the term ahead. I am confident that my absent fail rate this term will be zero (we’ll see, of course, but I’m confident).

For my internal students, I am looking at engaging them during class. I am challenged by the lack of avaliable computer rooms to conduct my classes, so I have asked students to bring their iPads and iPhones to class. My courses are technology heavy. Many exercises require students to search the web. For example we were discussing the definition of “news” and I asked the students to give me an example of something that was newsy. One student suggested the meteor strike in Russia. This was a great example because it was covered on a variety of different news mediums, and I knew I could expand the discussion to social media. But several students had not heard of the meteor strike (really!!) so I wanted to find it on the news for them. But I couldn’t because of the classroom. Next week, they can look it up themselves! (This raises a whole bunch of questions and issues about facilities for internal students and lecturers – but this is not the appropriate forum for that discussion!)

I look forward to learning more through OLTC20003 that I can apply to my classes. My lessons for Week 1 are that students need motivation and engagement. I hope I have achieved both. My telephone calls have been supplemented by posting for Distance students, and my enthusiasm should (hopefully) come across for internal students.