Oct 20 2014

Resource of the week

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With assessment a key theme at LSE this year, our feature post on Thursday will discuss how student conferences are being used as an innovative method of assessment, and a key builder of disciplinary skills, in two LSE departments. In advance of it, we have two resources of the week. First, Student Conference as Assessment (PDF), a transcript of an interview with Nick Lund, a senior lecturer in psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, who has used student conferences for summative assessment. Second, an article by Anna Jones, from the University of Melbourne – Redisciplining generic attributes: the disciplinary context in focus (Studies in Higher Education, vol. 34, no. 1, pp.85-100) – in which she makes clear “the importance of disciplinary epistemology in shaping generic skills and attributes”.

 

 

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Oct 16 2014

Resource of the week

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Closing our ‘mini-series’ on building rapport in the classroom, this week’s resource is Student views of instructor-student rapport in the college classroom by Nathan Webb and Laura Obrycki Barrett. The article builds on the research that shows rapport to be linked with positive learning outcomes by examining specific teacher behaviours defined by students as rapport building – such as attentive, grounding and information sharing – and in so doing provides practical advice for teachers wishing to enhance the classroom learning environment.

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Oct 14 2014

Upcoming LSE workshops

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There are still places available at some of this month’s LSE Academic Development Scheme workshops:

Interactive seminar teaching at LSE: ideas and approaches, Wednesday 15 October, 13:00-14:00

Research project grants: open calls for proposals (with Research Division), Monday 20 October, 15:00-16:30

Evaluating your teaching: approaches to evaluation, Friday 31 October, 12:30-14:00

 

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Oct 13 2014

Building rapport in the university classroom: examples across LSE

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We’re switching our usual ‘resource’ and ‘feature’ posts this week to bring you the LSE examples of classroom rapport building mentioned in last Thursday’s interview post, in the hope that they’ll prove useful for your early classes of the term. A related resource will follow on Thursday.

Nick-Long-Head-ShotNick Long, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, uses the first topic in his course on The Anthropology of Kinship, Sex and Gender – on the relationship between sex and gender from an anthropological perspective – as a means of rapport building as well as a way in to the discipline. Following the lecture which introduces the students to Harriet Whitehead’s notion of ‘gender systems’, he asks each student to use her model to develop a diagram of the gender system in a part of the world that they know well: wherever they call home, or have spent a large portion of their lives. They then compare their gender system diagrams with other students at their tables (at small ‘cabaret’ tables in groups of four or five students). Nick circulates from table to table as they do this, joining in the conversations, and making sure nobody dominates their sub-group, and  then uses what he hears to structure a class discussion that draws out interesting themes, contrasts and connections that emerge from the exercise. As Nick notes, ‘It’s a great ice-breaker, because the students are thinking about something on which they already have authority and expertise. That’s especially important for our MSc students, who are often converting into anthropology from another discipline, and can find the first seminars a bit intimidating. It also encourages the students to share aspects of their own lives, and to realise that the group and teacher will take an interest in their experiences. Finally it sets us up very well to think about the intellectual strengths and weaknesses of the “gender systems” concept in the remainder of the session.’

JBaka-238x368In her first lecture of the year, Jennifer Baka, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment, seeks to ‘humanise’ herself by talking about her research and telling the students something interesting about her summer. She then asks the students to introduce themselves and to tell the class something about their summers/first week of term. She also repeatedly reminds the students about her office hours and encourages them to come and see her with questions.

Karin King resizedKarin King is a GTA in the Department of Management. For her, building rapport starts before the students and teacher meet in the classroom. Before the first class she sends a welcome note by email to the students to introduce herself, along with a link to the online course resources. During the first class she leads a simple ice-breaker exercise in small groups to help kick-start collaboration and set the culture for highly interactive learning through small group learning activities which will continue throughout the course. The activity provides time for students to introduce themselves and share their objectives for taking the course which further helps them engage in their learning. She also takes a few minutes to explain how she sees her role as not only a teacher but also a partner in their learning, setting the expectation for shared contribution by both teacher and students in order to achieve an enjoyable and engaging learning environment. Finally, as Karin notes, ‘Taking the time to quickly learn each student’s name is an important signal that as teachers we are supporting each student’s learning experience and are looking for participation from each student.’

Abby InnesDeveloping rapport in classes for interdisciplinary courses can be especially important. Abby Innes, Assistant Professor in the European Institute, says about her first interaction with students: ‘I introduce myself and explain what my interests are and what brought me to the subject and then I ask students to do the same – say where they’re from, what they studied before and what drew them to the course. Then – this being interdisciplinary – I point out that they’re all going to have periods of discomfort and comfort/familiarity as the course proceeds so they should consider that totally normal and be suitably sympathetic when they see colleagues in the first mode. I also commend them for their bravery in choosing a subject that’s going to stretch them and assure them that the seminar is the place where we try to translate across disciplines and that this is the place to bring their confusions – that it isn’t a beauty contest but a conversation. I stress that the seminar is informal in style, which doesn’t mean flaky in terms of reading and deadlines but it does mean passion and engagement, that can come out in any form so long as it’s not expressed in personal comments to other people!’

sarahPaterson-4Finally, Sarah Paterson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Law, shared her advice for the first class of the year: ‘My tip would be not to spend too long describing the course, what is going to happen, etc. My experience, certainly with the master’s students, is that rapport is much better if you start straight off with a topic and an exercise which they can work on together. I asked them at the Orientation Fair to do the reading even though it was Week 1 and did one of the ideas from John Bean’s book1 – the idea about thesis writing, which involved me giving them a disciplinary problem to which they had to write a one line thesis response. It worked very well and we got a fantastic discussion going with well over half the group contributing on our first outing. I spent more introductory time with the undergraduates and it didn’t work nearly as well.’

1 Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom (second edition, Jossey-Bass, 2011) – see the ‘Read an Excerpt’ link under the cover image.

 

These are just some of the ways that rapport building is being practised at LSE and we know there will be many more. Please send any comments or your own ideas for future posts to tlc.teachingblog@lse.ac.uk

 

 

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Oct 10 2014

Building rapport in the university classroom

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Claire Gordon, 2013, croppedBuilding on Monday’s resource about how best to approach your first teaching class of the year, we interviewed LSE academic developer Dr Claire Gordon about building and sustaining rapport in the classroom

 

 

 

How would you define rapport in the university classroom context?

Rapport involves developing and maintaining a positive, supportive and respectful working relationship between the teacher and her/his students as well as among the students in a class. Given our diverse student body at LSE, with students from all over the world, it is critical that all students irrespective of their educational and cultural backgrounds are made to feel part of the learning community. With this in mind the process of building rapport with and among our students needs to start from the moment we enter the classroom for the first time, if not before.

What is the pedagogic case for building rapport?

There is a growing body of pedagogical evidence (Frisby and Myers, 2008; Webb and Barrett, 2014) which suggests that students learn more effectively when then they are in a positive supportive learning environment; in other words the nature of the relations among the teacher and the students is critical for their learning. Students are likely to be more motivated to learn, participate more actively in the classroom, feel at ease to express their views and perform better in their assessments. Recent research has begun to explore which specific teacher behaviours are likely to contribute to building rapport with students. For example, Frisby and Martin (2010) have highlighted the importance of interpersonal communication (attentive behaviours, connecting behaviours, information sharing behaviours, courteous behaviours and common grounding behaviours) in building rapport in the classroom.

Can you share any examples of good rapport building practice happening at LSE?

There are several I know about, in various departments – interesting ‘ice breaker’ activities in the Department of Anthropology, pre-class welcome emails in the Department of Management, and ‘research sharing’ conversations in the Department of Geography and Environment, to name a few. [We'll be featuring these in more detail next week - Ed.]

Finally, what would your ‘5 top tips’ for building rapport be?

1. Take time to get to know your students in the first class. As a warm-up activity and a way of gauging their knowledge ask them which key issue/question they are interested in exploring as well as something they like to do in addition to their studies. Share something about yourself with your students too.

2. Make it clear to your students that you are pleased to be in the classroom teaching them and try to communicate passion and enthusiasm where appropriate about the material you are teaching.

3. When you ask questions and engage your students in activities listen carefully to what they are saying and respond positively to their contributions.

4. Make eye contact with your students and use the full space of the classroom. Don’t lurk behind the console!

5. Think about how you want to arrange your classroom (where possible) to foster an active collaborative interaction between yourself and your students. Don’t underestimate the importance of the layout of the room.

References

Frisby, Brandi N. and Myers, S.A. (2008), The relationships among perceived instructor rapport, student participation, and student learning outcomes (link is to the allacademic.com site, from where the article can be downloaded)

Frisby, Brandi N. and Martin, Matthew M. (2010), Instructor-Student and Student-Student Rapport in the Classroom, Communication Education, vol. 59, no. 2, pp.146-164

Webb, Nathan G. and Barrett, Laura O. (2014), Student views of instructor-student rapport in the college classroom, Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, vol. 14, no. 2, pp.15-28.

 

Dr Claire Gordon is a member of LSE’s Academic Development Unit, which works with teachers and departments across the School on any teaching or learning related matter. See the Teaching and Learning Centre’s departmental advisers page for more information.

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