The unit planning activity has given me a chance to develop lessons that were previously very surface-level. When I taught interviewing about five years ago, the students read a chapter about phone and online interviewing, but didn’t do any as part of the class. The class was standardized across all sections, so although we discussed different formats, the applied activities were all face-to-face interviews in a classroom. Now that I have a chance to teach the class again in the Spring as an adjunct instead of a teaching assistant, I can add activities in different formats. So, it was important to me to incorporate higher levels of learning when we get to the phone & online section this time. With travel costs from Alaska, I think students are quite likely to be offered initial interviews from afar, so this skill-building will be highly relevant.
In “thinking about my thinking” I realized that in my haste to offer my student choices, I’ve also complicated my ability to evaluate them. I want them to practice interviewing in an online environment, and I thought it would be more engaging if I allowed them to choose from a list of online tools that may already be familiar. I suggested a paired activity where they pick two types of software to compare and contrast: Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Skype and Zoom. However, I realized today that not all of these may have a “record” feature so that the students can document they did the assignment, and so that I can watch both sides of the conversation and apply a grading rubric. For the interviewing class we use the best practices recommended by Stewart & Cash (2013) so I can’t just rely on student’s narratives of what happened; I actually need to sit there with a timer and make sure certain sections of the interview were not too long or short, for example.
I’ve been inspired so far by Fink’s ideas and his premise of “significant learning experiences.” I’m starting to be more aware of my motivations as a teacher. At first I just had this vague idea that I wanted to “share the study of communication” because I personally found it so interesting and useful. But after several years of teaching, I’ve come to really enjoy seeing people’s skills improve and how that in turn can make a difference in their confidence levels and future planning. So, I think part of the reason I’ve become more focused on activities that include problem-solving and synthesis are because those seem to be the activities that help people prove to themselves they “can do” something. Instead of just reading the transcript of a “good” interview in a book, students have the chance to create one. Public speaking and interviews are scary experiences for many, and practicing in a supportive environment can help folks work through some fears that may be holding them back.
By the way, there is a great interview with Fink posted online by the International Higher Education Teaching & Learning Association. My favorite quote is Fink’s answer to how we convince people to change their classrooms: “The most effective way to deal with any resistance to change is to help people understand that a particular change is what they already want.” www.hetl.org/interview-articles/significant-learning-experiences