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CSUMB’s recent EdTalk shared ideas (on teaching) worth spreading

Dr. Diane Allerdyce (left) and Dr. Erin Ramirez
Dr. Diane Allerdyce (left) and Dr. Erin Ramirez

By Walter Ryce

Published April 22, 2021

On Tuesday, April 20, CSUMB’s Department of Education and Leadership livestreamed its free EdTalk on the topic of “Ensuring Student Voice."

EdTalks are short, engaging presentations designed to bring the educational community together for intellectual stimulation and networking. This one featured two speakers.

Dr. Diane Allerdyce, chair and faculty of the Humanities & Culture (HMS) major of the Ph.D. program in Interdisciplinary Studies at Union Institute & University, spoke to “Every Student, Every Voice: Using Interactive Activities to Promote Critical Thinking”; while Dr. Erin Ramirez, assistant professor and director of the Project Poppy at CSUMB, spoke to “Integrating the Three Forms of Engagement to Utilize Student Voice and Drive Instruction.”

Dr. Kerri Chitwood, an assistant professor in the Department of Education and Leadership, organized the EdTalk and introduced the two speakers.

Allerdyce went first, opening her presentation with an example of using “interactive activities” to engage students and to hear each student’s voice.

“Every student’s voice should be heard every day,” she said. She presented in slides and video a technique by which that can happen — “pairs.”

That’s an exercise in which two sets of students assemble across from each other in two lines. Each student asks a question of the other. After the exchange, one line of students step to their left or right and meet the next student, at which point the exchange happens again.

“It may look funny by today’s standards becasue peopel are standing close together,” she said, commenting on a pre-COVID-19 photo of this method in action.

In this way, Allerdyce explained, each student will be able to have an exchange with every student across from them. She said this could be taken outside and done socially distanced, or can happen online.

In her presentation, Ramirez addressed three forms of engagement: emotional, cognitive and behavioral.

She said she likes to start her class with music, including in virtual class, to help students “warm up” and feel calm. She targets students out for specific praise (“I really like how you did this because…”), saying that it makes it more meaningful and also alerts other students about what behavior is favorable.

She said that teaching is one of the most human fields, so suggested using humor and telling jokes — even bad jokes.

“You have to create relationships with your students,” she said. “Learn their names quickly and pronounce them correctly. It’s sad when students say ‘Just call me this.’ No, I want to say your name correctly.”

When students are fearful of a subject, she cautions teachers not to dismiss it, but to dispel it by telling students that it’s okay to be scared but that they can understand the subject anyway, and breaking big imposing problems into smaller, more manageable pieces.

She uses Google polls often and early to guage her students’ receptiveness to the material and to the class: “If you hate the class in week three, you’re certainly going to hate it in week 15.”

She uses games and competitions to engage learning. She uses reassessment to find out what has been learned, and goes back if it didn’t stick. She gives little “brain breaks” as a pressure relief valve.

And she addressed issues related to the pandemic and shelter-in-place, and return to in-person instruction.

“We have changed our pedagogy for virtual instruction,” she said. “Take the best of what you’ve learned online and implement them into practice [in person]. You should not waste this year.”

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