Saturday, October 30, 2010

Teaching with bells and whistles?

This week I used short movie clips to illustrate concepts from the text. While I don't do this often, I try to add in some type of pop culture (music, print ad, movies, tv programs) for more difficult materials covered in the course. For example, for the Introduction to Public Speaking class I used clips from My Cousin Vinny to illustrate the concept of Ethos and Logos (Marisa Tomei court scene) in constructing arguments. I also incorporated a brief non-verbal analysis of candidates seeking election from CNN analysts to illustrate the idea that our bodies say more than our mouths. In the Advanced course, I relied on short clips from Lean on Me, A Time to Kill, and Inglourious Bastards to talk through the ideas of coercion and persuasion. I am quite blessed to say that my students are very engaged in most of the class sessions we have--they work to apply the text to daily life and to upcoming speeches. This week's classes went extremely well. Students were engaged and participating actively in discussions. I was thrilled the difficult concepts were absorbed easily and students were using academic vocabulary in the class discussion.

When I returned to my shared office, a colleague noted I lugged around a laptop, projector, speakers, and asked about the lesson for the day. When I described what we did the reaction was unexpected. My colleague noted that he doesn't like to teach with "bells and whistles" and that "of course the students would like it, but are they learning?" We are in separate disciplines and divided by 25 years of age, so it was interesting to explore the ideas of learning from one who views it in a more rote, solitary fashion and my own perception of teaching through connections and more democratically-based classrooms. It made me wonder about our perceptions of pedagogy and how we most often teach the way we liked to learn. While I enjoyed a good lecture, I really remembered/retained information when it was through some applied medium such as a class activity, a group project, or pop culture. Those classes were the ones I enjoyed the most because I knew that the material I read would be brought to life in some way during the class session. In the end, a productive and interesting discussion on pedagogy came out of the "bells and whistles" comment where we both reflected and examined our approaches in the classroom. Maintaining an open mind and sharing ideas on pedagogy across disciplines opens opportunities for educators which can enhance learning in the classroom.

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