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October 3, 2019

ElevatED: Episode 1

We know from research that lecturing actually forces a person’s brain to stay at lower levels of cognitive development. It essentially flat lines the brain. From looking at brain-based research we also know that lecturing to students does not engage them and if they’re not engaged, they’re not learning. So, it’s important to remember that if they look like they’re checking out, it’s because their brain actually IS checking out. Those non-verbals are telling you the whole story, everything you need to know. So what do we do about this? How can we then connect with our learner’s prior experience to engage them at a deeper level and elevate their potential to learn?  

That’s what episode one of the ElevatED podcast explores. We tracked down Dr. Alison Friederichs, associate dean for academic affairs and associate teaching professor here at University College. She’s been teaching communication courses for 17 years. She is also actively engaged in research and regularly speaks on topics related to how the adult brain learns and the implications of that knowledge on teaching. Dr. Friederichs gives us some context and a bit of an overview about how is the adult brain different than any other brain when it comes to learning. She offers the following tips:  

1. Use analogies. And when I say analogies, I’m using that term really loosely to say use metaphors, similes, stories, parables, things like that. Analogies are wonderful tools for connecting to prior experience because they allow the student to make the connection in their own way, not in the way that I think they should make them.

2. Ask questions. Ask lots and lots of questions of your students. Where are you, what do you know about this? What connections are you making? Sometimes it’s okay to say what’s missing, you know, how am I not connected? That can also be very telling. Also, we can do pre-assessments by the way. It doesn’t always have to just be in the moment. For example, ask prior to class, “what do you think this unit is about? What do you know about it?” So, now you know ahead of time that you can try to meet your learners where they are instead of trying to just get them to come to you.

3. Try something new. If you’ve been teaching online and you’re a little hesitant to move outside of just doing a discussion board and a videotaped lecture, just try one thing, ask your students to do something out of the norm. For example, engage in a conversation with a colleague about a concept and then talk about that conversation on the discussion thread or post a video on the discussion thread. Ask them to do a mind map, whatever it is, just take one baby step and try something new.

Want to learn more? Listen to the full episode!


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