With LSE making the decision to transition teaching and most of campus activity online for the remainder of the academic year, and Lent Term now in full swing, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect again on my teaching experience thus far. During Michaelmas Term, I wrote a previous post about this, but now that some time has past, I thought I’d take another crack at it. To be honest, it feels like ages ago when I wrote that previous post. Time moves both incredibly quickly and slowly these days.
Just like being a first-time student during COVID-19 has been challenging for many, being a first-time teacher has also sometimes been taxing. Teaching already can be hard in the best of circumstances, so having to account for the pandemic as well adds another layer of difficulty. I’m grateful that LSE made the firm decision to move to online teaching. It gives me, my colleagues, and my students a sense of certainty in the midst of so much turbulence, which is reassuring.
With a semester of teaching under my belt, I feel like I have finally found a rhythm for conducting my classes. In the beginning, I think I was spending too much time trying to rehash the lecture material. But after awhile, I realized my students did not need to hear a different version of the same material they heard in their lectures, so I tried to focus on having them analyse what they had learned and pick out the important themes and trends from the week’s topic. I found this to be much more successful, with engagement levels up and substantive discussions following. When we were in-person, it was hard to have my students interact with each other because of social distancing and other COVID-related restrictions. However, being online eliminates those issues. Zoom breakout rooms are fantastic for encouraging small group work and fostering student collaboration. I’ve found they work extremely well, and I would encourage all my fellow teachers to use them.
Finally, I think doing a slightly different activity each week, if possible, makes class more exciting and interesting for everyone. By having your students engage with the material in different ways each week, it stimulates them in distinct ways and pushes them to innovatively reckon with the material. While this might not always be possible, if you can find novel methods for teaching your students the week’s material, it will press them more to think about what they are learning. All of us will be better off for it!
You can find more information about LSE’s response to coronavirus here.