What are the pedagogic challenges facing teachers in HE today?

Yesterday I wanted to run a simple demo of Turning Point ResponseWare in a drop-in session at our new Oculus teaching and learning building. I left a single question active for the whole session, and just invited anyone present to have a go. My aim was to illustrate the mechanics of the system, but also to show a useful technique – an open survey that could be used to trigger dialogue with a diverse range of participants.

Earlier in the week I had noticed this entirely unofficial sign appearing outside of many of our lecture theatres:

no-phones

Clearly someone is having a bit of a struggle to hold their students’ attention. It is a divisive issue, with pro and anti phone views amongst staff and students – but also many who just don’t know what all the fuss is about. This got me wondering if my assumptions about the issues that staff worry about in HE teaching are accurate. So I started a simple list. And during the drop-in session I put that list on as a ResponseWare question, inviting participants to say which of the issues they want to address. This was very much a trial, not proper research, just to see who recognises these issues and the terms used to describe them. Here’s my list:

  1. Students using shallow learning strategies.
  2. Poor lecture attendance.
  3. Students inattentive in lectures.
  4. Disengaged students.
  5. Achieving a balance between coverage and depth.
  6. Inappropriate, misaligned, assessment methods.

And here’s the completely unrepresentative results:

teaching-issues-survey-test

I don’t think these results mean very much. More importantly, every respondent recognised the issues, and understood the meaning of the terms, with the exception of “shallow learning” – that was a surprise.

I had a few more suggestions for issues to add to the list, and no doubt it will grow much bigger as I dig deeper.

More issues to be added here:

  • Overcrowding.
  • Illness and exhaustion (teacher and student).
  • Too much time spend manicuring the VLE, too little time to spend engaging with students.
  • Too little contact time.
  • Risk averse students.
  • Risk averse teachers.
  • Seemingly good students not achieving as expected in assessments.
  • Lack of or poor access to learning materials and facilities.