The Internet has made it so that just about anyone can hop on a computer and put all of their ideas out there. There is a reason why online classes are one of the fastest growing markets in the US, and its because everyone thinks that they have got something worth saying. But does experience (be it professional, academic, applied or lived experiences) make you a good teacher for that subject? More often than not, the answer is no!
Nowadays, we have the tendency of thinking that just because someone is good at something, that they are good at teaching it. What if I told you that there is a field of study that studies how we teach? Pedagogy, is the practice and study of teaching, and often its what most online classes and public lecturers lack. Pedagogy is about taking a step back and saying, ‘cool, I know all of this information, now, what is the best way for me to get someone else to understand this topic as well as I do.
Pedagogy is about combining what you think is important for the student to learn with how the students are going to learn this material and retain it best. It’s about keeping in mind that people come from all walks of life and that you need to make your explanations as universal as possible, or if you have a specific audience, making sure that you are introducing material at a level they can understand. There are a tone of online classes out there that cost hundreds of dollars that are just some industry expert ranting for one hour. Ultimately, its not just about what you teach, but how you teach it.
Let’s say someone is trying to teach you how to build a house. Their first lesson is roofing. You later try to go apply that lesson in your own project but you can’t because you have no foundation or structure to build the roof on. So what can I do to adapt my teaching strategies? You should listen to your audience.
If you’re creating a class it is because you think you know a lot about something that someone else needs to know about. Think about your audience. Are they young, old, male, female, what level of education do they have, what are their jobs, etc. Some of these things may seem random but the more information you have, the better. If you know that your target audience is career engineers, you know you can feel more comfortable using more complicated terms familiar to engineers. If your audience is accountants who should learn how to code, perhaps you want to introduce them slowly to technological jargon because they may have a bigger learning curve.
Implementing survey’s at the end of your class is the best way for you continue to measure how your pedagogical approach is working, and it might even generate new ideas of how to teach.
There are hundreds of teaching styles out there, but there are some key components in modern education that are becoming more commonly used for good reason. I could show some of my previous lesson plans to exemplify this, but I want to avoid readers from taking anything here as a benchmark. Pedagogy is incredibly personal, so I simply want to suggest teaching methods that you could implement to your pedagogy to engage your audience more.
We all love watching an interesting documentary, and digital storytelling is a teaching method that employs this social phenomenon to its benefit. Certain topics can be very boring to read about, like history and politics, or complicated science. All of these dates and numbers can be hard to visualize. So, teachers started exploring how to divulge this information and they found that plotting the information and creating an engaging plot throughout helps keep readers more motivated. But even further, encouraging students to then create their videos to explain what they have learned truly helps the students solidify their knowledge but also help other people have an additional resource to learn this material from. Essentially, it is about bringing connection into education and engaging the audience with the teacher and with one another.