Examples of approaches to (digital) teaching: Below are recent examples of my approach to teaching in three different settings. The first is connected to a part-time course for in-service teachers with three physical gatherings and digital teaching in-between, the second example is from a weekly on-campus course for first-year student teachers, where I incorporate what I have learnt through experiences with digital teaching. Finally, I give an example of a digital guest lecture I was asked to give for a group of students at Radboud University (Netherlands), where I explicitly draw on my own research into fluency in learner English.
1. Flipped and blended learning: Example from an in-service course
This example is taken from a course I have taught almost every year since the beginning of my teaching career at INN, this time shared with colleague and Associate Professor Siri Fürst Skogmo. The changes we made to the course this time around were inspired by Siri’s participation in the pilot for INN’s professional development course in flipped and blended learning1. We used learning paths in the learning platform Canvas more actively, and made more explicit connections between the digital course work between campus seminars and the face-to-face teaching. We also made expectations connected to each module more explicit. As a result of student feedback (during midterm evaluations), we added learning objectives for each module/week, making it clearer what students were expected to focus on and which aims the activities in the module targeted. The professional development course inspired more in-depth reflections around which topics more easily lend themselves to digital self-study vs. face-to-face teaching. The degree of «flipping» was higher than in previous years, and this gave us the opportunity to focus more on student-active learning «on site». The students reacted very favorably to this, and expressed very clearly that they had learnt a lot from the combination of digital self-study and engaging activities on campus.
Below is an example of a module with a learning path for self-study, and a closer look at the introduction page:
2. Flipped learning: Working with concord and word order
The benefits of flipping and blending are of course not exclusive to remote/half-digital courses. The approach can also be very useful in courses with weekly campus teaching. The following is an example of a learning sequence where students were first asked to view two video lectures, before participating in teacher-initiated learning station activities during the campus seminar later in the week.
The video lectures can be viewed here and here, and the handout can be viewed here:
The learning station activities are outlined here:
The campus seminar was followed by a workshop with learning assistants (more advanced students) to consolidate and repeat some of the topics, and discuss them with other students and the learning assistants in a less formal setting. Since the threshold for asking learning assistants questions may be lower than addressing lecturers, this offers an additional opportunity to learn and to clear up any misunderstandings.
A steady shift towards more active and student-centered learning is visible here in comparison to my very first seminar on the topic of concord, in which most of the class time was spent on a visually supported and mostly monologic lecture, with a greater element of teacher control:
3. Research-based teaching: Digital guest lecture (Learner Corpus Research and Language Teaching, Radboud University)
The teaching was centered around a Prezi presentation, which can be viewed here. The visual elements of the presentation were chosen partly to highlight key points during the lecture part of the seminar, and partly to increase the likelihood that students were able to process and remember the key points.
Before the seminar, students were asked to investigate their own perceptions of fluency and draw a mind map, which they were asked to share in smaller groups (breakout rooms in Zoom) at the beginning of the seminar. This gave me the chance to get to know these students a little bit (and gave them a chance to get to know me), which seemed to lower the students’ threshold for communicating with me during the more student-active part at the end of the seminar. Towards the end, the students were given a handout with a spoken text (see below), and asked to discuss it in relation to the topics covered in the lecture. The seminar ended with a brief session where students shared what they had discussed in the smaller groups.
1 Christensen, Kjær and Hansen (2020) offer a useful definition of blended learning: “We view blended learning as facilitating, active, interactive and integrating processes, which through a purposeful mix of online and face-to-face learning activities support the students’ work towards and achievement of the associated learning aims” (p. 4, my translation).