by Cassie DuBay
It’s good to be early for things. Snagging tickets to Taylor Swift’s next tour requires diligence and dedication. Trying to attend Teaching the Teachers required the same. It was January 22, 2019, 11:58am, and I had the website prepped. And much like trying to get into the most exclusive event of the year, I stared anxiously at the clock waiting for registration to open. Fortunately, I got into the Teaching the Teachers conference that was just held May 29-31 in Atlanta, GA and it was, indeed, worth all the hype.
For every single one of my fellow law librarians who were not the lucky 40 in attendance, this post is for you. I could not possibly recap the entire conference in one blog post, but I’ll give you the highlights and then I hope you’ll feel compelled to register for the next go-around of TTT.
Highlights of the event included a crafty keynote session, brain science, lecture strategies, teaching and adapting to failure, and instructor improvement. Oh, and I mingled with some really cool people for two whole days!
I love a good arts & craft session and the keynote provided. We kicked off the conference with an out-of-the-box method of understanding learning differences among our students. I was tasked with listening to my partner’s hobbies, how she practices her interests, and what role she sees herself fulfilling in her library. After this learning “interview” with my partner, I created a literal model of an assignment tailored to her learning style.
This is Heather (complete with her long hair) and this is her administrative law assignment. The assignment I created allows Heather to learn the topic the way Heather learns best. If it’s not obvious, the assignment I created for Heather includes interviewing an expert in the field (little white smiley dude in the back) and then summarizing her notes for her classmates (the dots) through a visual presentation of her choice. I know what you’re thinking, I really should have been an arts teacher, but I’ll keep my day job.
Will I interview every one of my students for their learning style? No. Will I make a crafty 3D display of an assignment? No. But what I will do is shake up my assignments for the fall semester. I learned that my current class structure is very stale and accommodates only two or three learning styles at best. Immediately after TTT, I met with my coworker and we shared all. the. notes. about assignment methods, work-products expected, and techniques to enhance learning. The keynote was very powerful for me!
Alyson Drake’s presentation on cognitive learning was another favorite session of mine. She shared bite-sized information about how our students’ brains work in the classroom. I learned about cognitive overload and how to incorporate interactive lessons that not only break up the lecture but engage the students and their learning. Tip: add an activity every 15-20 minutes of lecture. Also if you pre-test students like me, test in small chunks. I usually distribute a course pre-assessment on the first day of class that covers the entire semester, but Alyson suggests assessing in small chunks. Smaller pre-tests increases recall and helps students put the lessons learned in their long-term memory.
As I said, I can’t recap every detail but here’s a list of ideas I plan to incorporate. I encourage you to reach out, collaborate with me, and share more ideas. Email me or reach me on Twitter @cassieraedubay and use #TTT19 to continue the conversation.
- Redesign PowerPoint slides. I have gravitated towards using quality pictures to convey a concept visually and to reach the visual learners, but perhaps to an extreme. I plan to add just a few more words and use uniform formatting for key concepts like definitions.
- Incorporate paraphrasing exercises or have students self-explain a concept or research strategy with a partner.
- Use organization exercises that ask students to categorize universal concepts e.g. publication schedules of primary law.
- Use pre-test questions to put the learning objectives in focus, instead of just outlining the learning objectives.
- I’ll rethink my handouts and whether to allow laptops in class.
- Introduce new topics with a hypo for context.
- Allow failure or struggle (don’t be so quick to re-route or intervene!) but then immediately meet with the student to correct the mistake.
- Weave in universally relatable stories (e.g. weather, traffic) to make storytelling more “sticky.”
- Build off earlier assignments in a more realistic way vs. assignments paired with topics as they are introduced.
- Heck, I might even play legal research bingo at the end of the semester!
I hear the conference organizers would like to host a TTT21. If this is offered, do yourself a favor and go. Oh, and, register as soon as you can!