Student-to-Student Learning: Between the Creative and the Practical

After considering the listed pitfalls, I felt #5 left me with the most to learn and the most room for improvement. In an environment increasingly driven by meeting institutionalized learning outcomes, sometimes I wrestle with how to let go of the reins, so to speak, and allow the knowledge exchange to flow differently. I am fortunate to teach in a discipline that centers multiple ‘centers’ of knowledge, rather than fetishizing a rigid set of ‘canons.’ And, the heart of our teaching emphasizes feminist pedagogies that explicitly counter epistemological hierarchies. However, sometimes I succumb to the exigencies of the job and the routines of teaching and find myself drifting away from these principles. Hopefully other folks can relate.

I find online teaching to be particularly perilous when it comes to redirecting the flow of knowledge and the directionality of teaching. To be honest, this pitfall gives me the most pause for 2 principal reasons: time constraints and Canvas (rather than a lack of creative energy). I actually enjoy and feel the best about my teaching when I’m designing new modes of interaction for the F2F and virtual classroom.

In thinking about how to avoid this pitfall, I’m reflecting on my current approaches and how to modify them for the hybrid environment. One thread I’d like to pull would be to modify my use of simulation-based learning. In recent years I have used a lot of simulations (specifically moving from individual work to group work in order to model real-world transnational networking around global maternal health activism) in my teaching to allow students to learn from one another. Sometimes students shudder at the mention of ‘group projects’ and ‘role playing,’ but I try to strike a different tone by empowering them to foreground their own interests and strengths (creative and intellectual). Because students are self-selecting their groups, their topics, their pathways, and their end products, they tend to stay engaged. In class we have a lot of check-ins and troubleshooting discussions, but I find this kind of interactive and multi-directional teaching and learning much harder to facilitate online. It can be difficult to ‘see’ the same working relationships forming and get a sense for which students are feeling disconnected and which groups are dysfunctional. This is where I am anxious to learn more about new ways to promote student-student teaching and learning. I’d also hope to avoid this pitfall by acquiring some new skills for managing (in a practical sense) things like wikis, shared document drives, co-created platforms, and other forums that exist outside of Canvas. Basically, I’d like to figure out how to take my observations and discussions that work in the classroom to an online setting. One of the challenges I’ve confronted in attempting to do this is feeling that the course itself gets unwieldy. For example, my Spring remote class currently has multiple forums where students can exchange information with one another. I often feel overwhelmed keeping up with the various discussion streams happening. If I were living my ‘best life’ right now, I’d make a schedule for checking these different repositories on a weekly basis and providing feedback. That’s just not realistic right now…perhaps it’s a good idea for the future?

Ultimately, I agree with the author that courses are most memorable when students feel safe to reflect and share freely with one another. That kind of classroom (F2F, hybrid, or online) yields the truest learning. After all, what can students really learn from me- or any single professor- and my narrow experiences and perspectives in 10 short weeks? When they laugh, cry, inspire, befriend, and empathize with their peers they are learning in the most robust sense of the word. I hope to develop some new approaches for promoting this kind of deep, engaged learning across the hybrid platform.

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About maesc

Asst Professor in Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
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One Response to Student-to-Student Learning: Between the Creative and the Practical

  1. petekelb says:

    I’ve been running into a similar problem in my remote teaching this term. My students spend a lot of time working in small groups and I feel like I have very little insight into how they’re working as a group and what content difficulties they may be having. I get significantly less questions than I would in a face-to-face class, and I’m just not sure how to recapture that insight. I’m excited to hear that you’re thinking proactively about this for your hybrid class and looking beyond Canvas for resources. If you have any good leads on platforms that you’d suggest, please let me know! I tried so hard to minimize the number of websites for my current classes, now I’m regretting it and looking to expand.

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