Lecturers and tutors of graduate students make a great mistake if they think that graduate students would, by the time they start studying for their Masters, have developed sedentary, laid back, auditory learning styles. Such strategies for teaching graduate students would fall flat and the teacher-focused strategies would show in the students’ poor results. Graduate students are on the go. They are at the height of self-discovery and self-awareness. Some might have started work and gained some experience in their field.
Having to sit still, copy notes in lecture-style learning format is a sure way to kill their interest in learning, especially when they are already independent learners who can seek out for themselves, by reading in the Library or going on-line, the knowledge you are dishing out to them. If they are attending class after a hard day’s work, and their minds are on their babies at home, it would be a great challenge to get them to focus on the teacher performing on the raised platform, pouring out notes that could have been found and read in the on-line library instead. In order for lecturers and tutors to succeed in their roles, they must no longer place greater emphasis on teacher-centered approaches and focus instead on student-centered learning processes.
Teacher-centered approaches are great to begin and end a series of lessons on a subject. In-between teachers need to throw the focus back on the students who will be the ones taking the examinations. The more these students are involved in the thinking processes during lessons, the better prepared they are to think and perform during the examinations. These are great strategies that work with college and university students:
~ Group reads, research and discussions allow students to be pro-actively seeking information for themselves. In order for this strategy to gain the desired results, teachers must have done their homework first to seek out existing specific on-line references and easily available books in the library. Do not send students on a generic search on a topic as they would end up with lots of information from websites they cannot verify as accurate. If no prescribed personal texts exist, sending a hundred students to the library on the hunt of one required text would end up with frustrated students who would abandon search as hoggers hold on to the text, preventing others use of it. Instead, teachers may make limited copies of the specified page for group discussions in the classroom or direct students to reliable on-line references. Students are more willing to learn together if they are allowed to form their own groups at this age when hormones are ranging and they need their comfort zone as long as they are able to produce the desired results of the group reads and discussions.
~ Practicals and experimentations would produce a greater impact on learning than merely reading or listening to somebody’s experiments. Let students read up, or teachers present in a short lecture, a scientific truth. Let students design, model or modify the related experiment and report on their findings. The experiment may land them in unexpected situations that result in new discoveries. Students are thus provoked into learning that would never have existed had the teacher just demonstrated an experiment. These hands-on learning experiences are important for honing the next scientists and researchers. The lack of or limited resources should not pose a problem as it would create a greater and more exciting learning path for the students. Besides, the students could be grouped and set off on different experiments. They would not be needing the same tools, materials and apparatus at the same time. Different review sessions could be set up with the different groups so that teachers can verify group processes. The assessment could be based on these review session and a group report.
~ Reenactment of a historical moment or literature text brings to life the characters, emotions and meanings of the events. Students can write a journal on the reenactment to reflect the key learning points and their thoughts on the events. By acting out a character, students are forced into the thinking processes, mannerisms and interactions with other characters. The ‘if I were so and so’ experiences allow students to live in another person’s shoes, even if it were for a moment, and enhances the ability to empathise or sympathise with a character and understand the character’s thoughts and actions in depth. Readers theatre, poetry recitations, role-play, theatrical works are related strategies to reenactment. Students would do better in if they were brought to a restaurant to learn to lay out the cutlery a hundred times for a dinner than memorise what they see in a given picture.
~ Nothing can be more exciting than seeing a place or a thing in real life. A visit to the museum or a place of historical moment helps students visualise the words they read in a text. Such learning journeys add depth of perception to students’ learning. A visit to Shakespeare’s quaint and peaceful home will inspire a writer-wannabe in the students. A visit to a real scientist’s laboratory will spark off the ambition of those aspiring to be scientists.
~ Photographic reports, movie-making and blogs are hands-on learning modes which incorporate brainstorming and planning, writing, acting and presentation skills. Students have to know their stuff if they want to do well. Having their peers rate their work and having to rate their peers’ work add on another challenge. They go through competition that they will face in the adult working world, they develop skills to handle work pressure and work relationships. They experience a sense of accomplishment and pride when they produce good work.
Students who learn in the various ways will find their prescribed texts coming to life and become more interesting as they will then have something more concrete to relate to instead of just words, words and more words. They will find the interactive learning modes more enlivening than merely taking down notes in a cold lecture theatre. They will have lived life as graduate students to the fullest and have loving memories of learning together with their peers.