IN beginning these four in a series of write-ups on managing technology in academe, our presentation showed that hard technology does influence soft technology. The web distinguishes hard from soft technology as “tangible components that can be purchased and assembled into assistive-technology systems. They include everything from simple mouth sticks to computers and software. Soft technologies “include the human areas of decision-making, strategy development, training, and concept formation.” <https://www.britannica.com/topic/soft-technology>Hence,teaching and learning in and outside the classroom as well as the communication mode among ourselves is soft technology. It is important therefore that we academics whether we are in administration or in teaching, manage and maximize using these evolving gadgets to help us pursue our goals.
Teaching methods in the graduate school. Earlier we dwelt on how evolving hard technology influenced the soft—approaches, methods and techniques. Time has not obliterated the popular lecture method which comes in different formats. As students then of various professors, we would remember their different lecturing styles. There are those with “kodigo” to prompt them while lecturing. I remember a professor who kept walking around the classroom as he lectured. We students had to turn our necks either side—right or left—following which side of the classroom he was. If he was at the back of our class, we students had no choice but to sit up straight. Yes, our seats were arranged the more common way then, in neat rows spanning both sides of the classroom. Studies have shown that the lecture method is “ineffective for graduate-level learning. It doesn’t foster deep understanding of the material, or include them (students) in the academic discourse.” (Steen, Bader, & Kubrin). There are several formats of the lecture method. (For more, visit Ryerson University’s The Teaching and Learning Office.) We take a closer look at each format.
Professor-led formats for graduate seminars. “Steen, Bader, & Kubrin (1999), in their influential paper on” ‘Rethinking the Graduate Seminar,” analyzed the four basic models for graduate seminars,<https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ633781>which are either professor- or student–led. One is the lecture format—the professor is responsible for disseminating the material concerning the assigned topics for a particular session. The professor explains in phases the material, while students listen and take down notes. No activity if at all provides interaction between students and the professor nor among students themselves as to the rationality and application to real life of concepts or of judgments. Two, is the professor-led discussion where “the professor raises provocative questions about the readings and manages the ensuing interchanges.” Students are to “discuss ideas and develop reactions to the readings.” To be effective, the professor is to “plan an agenda of questions to reach explicit goals for the discussion”; also that “questions . . . be focused enough to lead to meaningful and constructive discussion.” In ending a session, the professor is advised to provide a “meaningful conclusion or reiteration of the main points of the discussion.”<https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ633781>
Student-led formats. The professor “assigns students to lead class sessions,” involves students “in bringing prepared questions to class”; manages the discussion and provides “an overview before allowing the student to take over, or the student leading the discussion itself with the (professor) taking a passive role.” Like the professor-led discussion, this format does not assure a vigorous intellectual interaction. Students may not be able to “determine the pivotal points in the material and connect them together into a meaningful framework.” It does not ensure class discussion to cover “the main points of the material”; also placing “the material within an academic context.” Much involvement and guidance of the professor is needed for this format to be a “medium for academic discourse.” Four, is the read-and-present in which the professor has least intervention and merely “provides a list of articles. Students select individual articles to read and give a brief, in-class presentation summarizing the content.” Our source, Steen, Bader & Kubrin “consider this method to be the least beneficial for learning.” With 15 or more students in a class, there will hardly be enough time, for discussion or comments. While those students presenting earlier in the class session are able to discuss the topic in more detail, those towards the end of the session would usually be short of time. Added to this, is “the lack of connections of topics since these are assigned separately to students.”
Effective seminar-formats. Based on Steen, Bader & Kubrin (1999), the same source suggests that professors “take an active role in organizing and managing seminar discussion,” “have clear goals for the session” and “bring a discussion back to the task at hand if it veers too far off course.” To keep students to the goals, professors provide “students with guidelines for their readings, drawing their attention to key points or areas on which to focus.” Also, professors begin the session with “a short summary of the readings, raising potential issues for discussion, and reminding students of the relevant issues in the text.” For a successful seminar format, the professor provides clear statements on the intended learning goals and an outline of learnings. This makes easier a summary of the discussions connecting one concept to another towards the end of a session. To “create a meaningful discussion,” “build it from the ground up” with ”the development of questions based on the learning levels laid out in Bloom’s Taxonomy.” <https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ633777>
(Next week: Using the internet for research literature review, theoretical and conceptual frameworks and schematic diagram.)