On the wire – highlights from across the web

The month’s highlights on higher education from across the web

1. Dual Coding and Learning Styles

Dual Coding and Learning Styles from The Learning Scientists 

Many educators still hold the view that students have individual learning styles or preferences, ie that some individuals learn better by interacting with either verbal, visual, auditory or kinaesthetic content materials.  Research studies to date have not found evidence to support this, however. 

The author, Megan Sumeracki suggests instead that particular learning topics lend themselves to styles of content.  She cites the examples of learning to ride a bicycle as an almost wholly kinaesthetic experience while learning human anatomy without images would be extremely difficult.

She argues that while the idea of catering to learning styles is defunct, combining a number of different representations of materials does have value for learning.  The idea is already integral to inclusive teaching practice where explaining content in different ways may suit the particular cognitive experiences of individuals – a subtle but important distinction from learning styles.  She presents a method she terms ‘dual coding’, whereby words and images are combined to present two complementary ways of understanding the material and claims there is scientific evidence to support its value in making it easier for students to learn the content. 

2. What Two Students Want You to Know About Inclusive Teaching

What Two Students Want You to Know About Inclusive Teaching from Faculty Focus 

The student voice can provide a useful viewpoint when considering inclusive teaching practice. Consider the student perspective of what teachers should know about being inclusive in the classroom by reading the short article What Two Students Want You to Know About Inclusive Teaching. Two student co-authors provide their views on ways teachers can promote inclusion, especially of students from low socio-economic backgrounds to reduce disadvantage and promote a positive learning environment.

3. Getting Started with Blended Learning Videos

Getting Started with Blended Learning Videos from Faculty Focus

What are students looking for in an online video? Continuing our considerations of the student perspective, this short piece from Faculty Focus covers some key factors to consider when making blended learning videos, as reported directly from the students themselves. If you’d like to learn more about blended learning or how to adopt blended learning techniques into your own teaching, check out the designing for blended and online learning module in the Modular Professional Learning Framework, open to all university staff.

4. How to Demonstrate Confidence in Your Teaching

How to Demonstrate Confidence in Your Teaching from EdSurge

Teaching with confidence can be a tricky beast, even for the very experienced amongst us. It is often said that students can tell when their teachers are unsure of themselves when they teach, and that this can prevent effective learning. In this article, EdSurge’s Bonnie Stachowiak offers some key tips on how to build and demonstrate confidence in your teaching. She suggests that it is often most helpful to focus on avoiding behaviours that indicate to others that you lack confidence, rather focusing on how confident you might (or might not) feel

5. Small Changes in Teaching: Giving Them a Say

Small Changes in Teaching: Giving Them a Say from The Chronicle 

More choice – it’s what we are all after right? While it is not always easy, giving students some control over their learning can often spark a greater connection with the task at hand and an intrinsic desire to master the material. The educational literature sometimes breaks the way students approach their learning into two ways: performance and mastery. Performance-oriented learners want to score well on assessments. Mastery-minded learners want to grasp the material for its own sake. Seeking mastery, the research suggests, creates deeper and long-lasting learning. So how can we encourage and nurture this desire to master over perform? According to James Lang, we should give students choice. 

In his latest piece for the Small Changes in Teaching series, Lang covers three small ways that we as teachers can introduce more choice into our classrooms: 1) student-generated exam questions, 2) open assessments, and 3) class constitutions. For the unsure amongst us, Lang is first to admit that giving over control of any aspect of teaching can be terrifying, and that there can be good reasons not to do so. However, if you do find this idea intriguing, we encourage you to read on and see how you could offer your students even one new choice in your next teaching semester.   

6. How to Make Smart Choices About Tech for Your Course

How to Make Smart Choices About Tech for Your Course from The Chronicle 

Part of the Chronicle Advice Guides series, this article focuses on another increasingly important issue for contemporary teaching – “How to Make Smart Choices About Tech for Your Course”. With more and more learning becoming blended and online, one of our main challenges as teachers is to design learning environments that integrate both the physical and digital in order to take advantage of the benefits of each. 

Whilst technology can seem to offer us ever increasing mechanisms to connect, communicate, and co-create with our students like never before, unsurprisingly it throws up specific challenges of its own. In some cases, it also introduces new barriers to learning which can negate the very benefits it “promises” to provide.

To start navigating these challenges, Michelle Miller takes us through some key consideration to help make smart choices about using tech for in our teaching. Read on, and investigate the questions to ask yourself when introducing new technologies into your learning environments. Perhaps you will even discover that effectively weaving technology into your teaching to benefit your students’ experiences might not be as difficult as you think.

This article was contributed by the Teaching@Sydney editorial team.

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