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It can be hard engaging students in lectures

Plan classroom interactions ahead of time

A friend reminded me in one of his emails about the book ‘Made to Stick‘ by Chip and Dan Heath. One of the things they talk about is that messages stick when they have various attributes, and that a good way to make this memorable is to show people their assumptions are wrong.

Challenge their thinking

I thought something like this would do well in Monday’s lecture for the returning software engineering students. I wanted to show them that they might need to change their ways of working. By doing this they’d shorten feedback loops. Using questions in Slido for them to answer to gather initial responses. This sort of worked, but not as well as I hoped. I could only do three questions on the free version, and instead of word clouds, I ended up with questions. This didn’t work so well.

I think the questions themselves were ok. Maybe what I need to do next time is have them talk to each other, which is my normal practice. I like ‘talk to your neighbour’, and ‘talk to your other neighbour’ when they’re in lecture theatres.

I think I rushed the later half too. Then I covered ‘better options’ for practices using diagrams that I’ve been sharing with you folks these last few months. I went too quickly instead of offering time for them to talk of how they might apply them in their teams.

Make it better next time

All in all, I’m ok with the session, but will need to consider how to improve it for next time.

It also occurred to me yesterday, that I wasn’t sure what evidence I had from the students as to whether their thinking had changed. Maybe I need polls and votes in addition to the word clouds in the first section. Then I can repeat them in the second one to see whether they’re thinking has changed. This plus more talking to their neighbours, should make for more useful interaction. It also means less talking for me, which is always a win.

So, my question to you is this: How do you make your lectures interactive so that students talk to each other? Remember, students tend to learn more from each other than they do from us folks at the front of the room.

This post is part of a project pulling together my materials and ideas about Teaching Team Collaboration: the Human-Side of Software Development for software development to students.

The ideas above are from my book 101+ Ideas to Improve Team Collaboration, which covers all of these little things that students can do to improve their collaboration.

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