Last week I had the pleasure of watching Mel teach class. In this post I will share several things I noticed her doing that may be useful for mindful incorporation into others’ classes. These simple yet effective strategies can go a long way towards building an engaged community of learners. If you would like to share something that you are doing in your class like this please let me know. We don’t always blog about it, but Mel and I are both bloggers so we thought it was a neat way to share.

Student-Selected Music

In the time between students arriving and class beginning Mel plays music. I noticed that her playlist is mixed with what appears to be music from other cultures/languages. I made a note that I am going to need to ask her about how she chooses her music and why.

Later in class, I realized that it was by request. What a good idea to encourage a welcoming and inclusive environment. I wonder if there are any ground rules. There are other ways to apply this concept of allowing more student input into class decisions. What other aspects of the course delivery can we involve our students in?

Responding to Feedback

Mel summarized feedback from a previous class, which I think it important to let students know that we pay attention to it. These tickets are handed out during class and she reminds students that participation is encouraged but optional. I liked how she acknowledged what students liked and disliked about class. She was also very good at framing requests in a firm but nice way way.

Throughout the class, Mel stayed true to her promise of checking in to make sure she was not moving too fast through the slides. I am trying to think of a way to gauge how long to stay on a particular slide. Zoom has a “go faster” or “go slower” button, which is handy for online courses. It would be helpful if Google slides, PowerPoint, Mentimeter, and Nearpod had something similar. Below is a slide from one of my classes. I enable student reactions on every slide. Instead of leaving it open for students to react whenever I could ask them to react when they are done with that particular slide.

The simpler approach is to read the audience and ask if you are going to fast when you are unsure. That works well in a class of about 30 students but in larger classes I feel it will be harder to ensure all voices are heard. In my next class where I use Mentimeter I will try using student reactions to gauge speed. Maybe that is what I can tell students the cat is for since I can’t figure out what it is intended to mean.

Considering Design

Considering speed also reminds me of a design consideration. I sometimes plan too many slides. Quality is better than quantity. I liked her use of pictures. Even though I have always used a lot of pictures to reinforce messages sometimes I find that I have too much text on a slide. For my next class, I have moved a bunch of the text from the slide to the notes section for students and tried to incorporate more images.

Acknowledging Birthdays

Students seemed to appreciate the opening where student birthdays were acknowledged by request. This is another great idea. An idea I believe she got from the tickets she hands out in class. A lot of what Mel does in the opening of her class helps to create a community of engaged learners. While I am not suggesting that all of these strategies will work in all classes, it might be worth trying something like this.

A Talking Stick

In nursing we do A LOT of group work and large group discussion. Mel’s approach to soliciting feedback from the entire class was to probe, encourage multiple people to speak and use a talking stick. I have never tried using a talking stick in class before, but it is working really well. This simple trick seems to be working quite well with a group of around 30 students.

In a larger class (like mine) I wonder if it would be fun to have something soft that can be thrown around the classroom. I can think of a few small stuffed animals that might work. We use a microphone in my class. At some conferences, they have a microphone in a catch box – that would be awesome!

During the discussion she purposefully sought input from a variety of learners by specifically asking students who she thought would have ideas to share. Mel wa moving around the room and offering to pass them the walking stick she invited a variety of perspectives. She also gave adequate time for people to respond to various prompts.

Be Relatable

During large group discussion about emotional intelligence, Mel talked about some relatable examples. Using the analogy of a shaken pop bottle for someone who is not dealing with their stress was a good way to paint a picture for the audience.

Variety

Many of us strive to incorporate variety into our lesson plan. I liked the variety of activity types that Mel used. As someone who uses a lot of electronic ways to share activities, I think it is good to note that if learners do not bring their own device paper handouts are needed. That, of course, requires an assessment of the class. In my classes, I can get away with electronic sharing of most activities. Still, sometimes paper works better.

Excellent class Mel! Thanks for opening it up to me.

Innovation comes in a variety of forms. It is creativity in action, which is often inspired by exposure to diverse ways of doing things. Every time we share what we are doing we can inspire others to take one small step and change one thing about their teaching that can have a huge impact.

Laura Killam

PS: Class content was great too. “It is not a good idea to make decisions when you are angry. It is important to know when to take a step back.” It is okay to cancel a meeting if you cannot meet a client’s needs due to emotional stressors. Avoid letting an emotional hijack control your actions!


NurseKillam

Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit http://nursekillam.com/.

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