Teaching methods are applied in order to achieve specific goals, not for their own sake. Often, the details are essential. Methods are not recipes that can be standardized and applied universally to achieve the same results every time. It can be interesting to try out new methods and design classes that are varied and entertaining.
As you plan the lessons for your class, it is important that you carefully think through methods or your own ideas with possible variations and alternatives in mind. Carelessly implemented teaching methods can also have negative effects. Particularly if you want to account for or explicitly address gender- and diversity-related power relations such as racism, sexism, economic exploitation and inequality, migration, antisemitism, and other social relations, you must strike a tricky balance between clearly laying out circumstances and risking exposing people’s social positions or forcing them into the role of victim. To employ methods deliberately and competently, you need the right skills and a realistic understanding of your capabilities as a lecturer. Continuing training programs are listed under Resources.
To help you select methods more deliberately, here are some questions to ask as you review a method.
If your primary goal is to reveal the range and complexity of a subject and to awaken students’ curiosity, you can break the process down into several, deliberately short activities rather than presenting everything at once. However, if your primary goal is for students who don’t know each other yet to cooperatively develop creative solutions to a problem, methods using short activities and strict timing are less suitable. It takes time to establish an atmosphere of good teamwork in which various ideas can be voiced, heard, and discussed.
As you answer these questions, be sensitive to students’ varying preparation levels and abilities. If you expect certain individuals or groups to participate in certain types of activities and expect others to find these activities more difficult, make sure to also think about what stereotypes might be influencing these assumptions.
Overall, a variety of methods tends to ensure that it is not always easy or difficult for the same students to participate. You should also consider what you can do to ensure that everyone is similarly prepared to participate by practicing necessary skills together beforehand or providing information in advance.
Group work has many advantages. Students get acquainted with each other. There is more time for each person to talk in discussions. Participants can learn from each other and test and expand their knowledge in a space under less observation. Long-established roles in the larger group can be mixed up.
At the same time, a small group creates a new distribution of roles: Who moderates the conversation? How are decisions made? Who takes notes? Who keeps track of time? Who presents the results? Are any students not included or even actively excluded? Different tasks often do not receive the same recognition. They also lead to differing labels of competence. This leads to the formation of a hierarchy.
There are a number of ways to handle these dynamics:
In the university environment, you need to be especially careful in your treatment of personal information and details –even when students’ safety and health is not endangered. Your job is not just to guide learning processes; you also are responsible for evaluating students and should therefore be conscientious about deciding what to cover and what you as the lecturer would be better off not knowing so that you remain fair and impartial.
...can you redesign or transform the method, paying attention to gender and diversity, in a way that changes the answers to no?
...or refrain from using the method and select another, more suitable one.