Going back to school this year feels like we’re past the worst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. What a whirlwind the last two years were, with remote learning, hybrid classes and college students challenged to make the most of an unprecedented event. Now is a good time to shake things up with a post-pandemic pedagogy for the new school year. Here’s what you need to know as we head back to school this year.
Instructors can take steps and be in touch with what students need entering the classroom. This is the case in small group classes and large forum classroom settings. Kick off the class with clear direction and expectations for the course. This can include showing some flexibility, whether with attendance, participation, or assignments. Yes, hold students accountable for their work and participation, but it’s okay to let them know that you’ll be accommodating them on a case-by-case basis. Build a more personal bond with students by sharing a bit of yourself with them to encourage the same. This can help students manage stress, anxiety, and the common pressures for college students.
Give yourself plenty of time to plan for the start of the school year. Relate your course to the real world today, update your curriculum and incorporate relevant case studies and examples. Try allocating some time each week to find new and interesting information that can be worked into the good thinking that already exists in your course outline. Just like we advise students to give themselves plenty of time not to cram for assignments and exams, instructors should do the same with their course materials. There’s no substitute for planning ahead so that updating materials is manageable and thoughtful.
It sounds simple enough, build relationships with students before your class starts and sustain those relationships. Sometimes students need a nudge to ask for advice or chat about what’s on their minds about the course. So, be open to getting to know your students because instructors have a unique position to not just educate but also help as coaches. Make the time to get to know the people attending your class. Ways to do this are to hang around after class and chat up your students. Offer to hold an Ask Me Anything study group outside of class where you’re available to go through materials, assignments, and students can really ask you anything. Actively listen to what they’re saying and understand the meaning. Encourage them to seek your counsel on the course and their college experience.
College courses should be fun for instructors and students. Yes, there should be a balance between fun and being pragmatic about achieving course outcomes. Students appreciate it when instructors have a bit of fun in the classroom and aren’t all “business.” Being playful with course materials can humanize instructors and make the course less intimidating. For example, come to class wearing your favorite tee shirt and explain why it’s your favorite. Ask students to write down a playlist of songs they want to hear in class and stream the songs before and after class and during breaks. Incorporate a mystery into your course material, give students clues throughout the class, and then unveil it at the end. Use funny, animated gifs in your lecture materials. And finally, loosen up a bit and don’t teach so seriously.
This year change it up a bit and try some different techniques to for back to school. Connect with your students on a relational level and have some fun!