Slack - Brandon-Jones - Burgess: Energy as Pedagogy

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This webinar centred on revitalising learning through energy as a pedagogical tool. Authors stressed combating boredom and anxiety for active engagement. They advocated engaging teaching methods, using props to captivate attention and real-life examples to resonate with students. Insights on managing energy levels and catering to diverse backgrounds were shared. Attendees departed with renewed enthusiasm for dynamic teaching, aiming to inspire active learning beyond the classroom. 

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In this webinar, led by Alistair Brandon-Jones, the central focus was on reinvigorating the learning experience through the lens of energy as a pedagogical tool. The authors highlighted the importance of combating boredom, anxiety, and the fear of failure to foster active learning among students. An engaging teaching approach is pivotal in inspiring students to move from passive receivers of information to proactive learners. Drawing from their own experience, they illustrated how a simple change in presentation style, such as donning a jacket and hat, can instantly captivate students' attention and ignite their curiosity. The presenters underscored the significance of leveraging real-world examples to anchor theoretical concepts, making the learning experience more relatable and immersive. 


Why it’s easy to teach 

Nigel Slack, echoed Alistair's sentiments by emphasising the efficacy of starting lessons with tangible examples that resonate with students' daily experiences. He illustrated this approach by sharing his personal dilemma of deciding whether to purchase a computer with the current technology or wait for an anticipated upgrade. This example highlighted the importance of authenticity in teaching and how incorporating personal experiences can enhance student engagement and comprehension. 


Why it’s hard to learn 

They then delved into the dynamics of energizing teaching methods, focusing on overcoming student disengagement and fostering active learning. Alistair underscored the importance of combating boredom and anxiety in the classroom to facilitate effective learning. He emphasised, "If you're bored, and if you're boring, so are your students."  


Personal stories 

They advocated for the incorporation of personal anecdotes and multi-sensory experiences to captivate students' attention and prompt their active participation. Through interactive exercises like visualizing queue experiences, attendees explored methods to transition students from passive receivers of information to active learners, promoting both engagement and deeper understanding. 


Physical props 

The presenters then explored the efficacy of various teaching hooks to enhance student engagement. Nigel highlighted the significance of physical props in capturing students' attention. He illustrated this with a Kit Kat chocolate bar, demonstrating how tangible objects can anchor lessons in students' memories. The discussion extended to the adaptation of these techniques for both in-person and online teaching environments, underscoring the versatility and effectiveness of props in facilitating interactive and impactful learning experiences. "Props, even very simple props, are really powerful." 

Next, Nicola Burgess shared her recent experience of using a tomato as a teaching aid. She highlighted the importance of physical engagement. Nicola recounted how she immersed herself in research to make the topic engaging for both herself and her students. By actively involving students in examining and discussing the tomato, Nicola demonstrated how a seemingly ordinary prop could spark lively discussions and facilitate learning. As Alistair noted, such props offer numerous spin-off opportunities across various disciplines, illustrating the versatility and impact of incorporating tangible objects into teaching practices. 


Building on senses 

Alistair further reinforced the idea by discussing how props like pineapples and chocolates can spark curiosity and facilitate discussions on various concepts such as product orientation and quality. His insight underscored the importance of short, memorable hooks that actively involve students and appeal to multiple senses.  


Controlled processing 

Furthermore, the importance of transitioning from automated processing to controlled processing in learning, with Alistair highlighted the significance of disrupting the learning script through interactive and challenging activities. Nigel underscored the need for educators to be brave and authentic in their teaching methods, encouraging them to embrace audacious approaches while acknowledging that not everything will always work perfectly. As he aptly stated, "The more energy you put in, the more creative you are at designing hooks, the more courageous in performing this, on average, you will do better." 



The webinar included valuable insights into enhancing student engagement and learning outcomes both inside and outside the classroom, with Aniekan Essien sharing his experiences with using technology to facilitate learning. His emphasis on the importance of technology in improving student engagement was evident in his statement, "I'm a big believer in technology and how it can impact teaching and learning." Aniekan discussed implementing gamified quizzes using Revel, which resulted in increased student participation and performance, as evidenced by a strong correlation between points earned and grades achieved. Alistair further underscored the integration of technology and classroom teaching, likening it to the need for consistent effort in physical training outside of scheduled sessions. His analogy emphasised the importance of generating enthusiasm for learning beyond formal class sessions.  


Safe environment 

The next point to discuss was the crucial aspects of creating a conducive learning environment, with Nicola highlighting the significance of psychological safety in the classroom. She emphasised the need for students to feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and asking questions without fear of judgement, stating, "making sure that students feel brave enough to be able to share their thinking, to ask questions for further clarification, and perhaps even to critically reflect on what they are seeing and hearing in an engaged way." Nicola suggested practical strategies such as group work and peer discussions to foster relationships among students and build their confidence in sharing ideas.  


Class size and using slide decks in various ways 

The webinar also covered various strategies for managing different class sizes and structures, with Nigel highlighting the importance of adapting teaching methods accordingly, stating, "the bigger the class in my experience, the more theatrical you have to be." He suggested practical approaches such as engaging students in brief discussions with their peers and using interactive slides in presentations to maintain student interest and participation. Alistair reiterated the simplicity of implementing these strategies, emphasizing, "You don't always have to do really dramatic things to start to elevate sessions and move from this passive to active learning mode."  


Different approaches 

Next, Nicola presented a creative activity to illustrate the concept of standard work. She engaged students by using T-shirts and volunteers to demonstrate different approaches to completing a task, highlighting the importance of standardizing procedures for efficiency and consistency. She emphasised the broader implications of standard work for fostering creativity, innovation, and continuous improvement. 


Project learning 

Alistair then highlighted the significance of creating psychologically safe environments for students to engage in hands-on activities, gradually building their confidence to embrace more complex tasks. Using examples like project management simulations and physical exercises, he underscored the value of learning by doing and the role of failure in the learning process.  


Energy beyond the classroom 

Moreover, he discussed the necessity of beyond-the-classroom approaches, advocating for creative use of props and simulations to enhance student engagement and understanding. Alistair also stressed the importance of efficient time investment in activities, ensuring that learning objectives are effectively communicated and absorbed, even if it requires sacrificing class time for engaging exercises. 



In the final part, the focus was on innovative teaching methods and addressing challenges like falling attendance. Nigel suggested combining role-play with preparatory work and reflection, stating, "The idea of the role play works really well. To make it more engaging, combine it with the hard elements of the content the subject by having students write a short preparatory negotiation piece." The discussion also touched on engaging students before class, with Nigel recommending short videos over reading materials. Moreover, strategies for handling distracted students were explored, emphasising the importance of balancing attention on both enthusiastic and quieter learners to create a cohesive learning environment.  

The webinar concluded with an invitation for questions and discussions from attendees, highlighting the collaborative nature of the session. 



During the Q&A session, participants raised questions about the dynamics of energy in teaching, acknowledging the diverse preferences among students. Alistair recounted an experience where a seemingly disengaged student turned out to be one of the most appreciative, emphasizing the importance of understanding individual learning styles. He suggested adapting teaching methods to suit introverted learners, leveraging their strengths to create a conducive learning environment. Nigel echoed this sentiment, highlighting the significance of pacing and variety in maintaining engagement, stating, "In fact, the change of pace itself can be just as effective." Both speakers emphasized the need to cater to the diverse cultural backgrounds of students, gently guiding them towards active participation. 

Additionally, concerns were raised about managing energy levels effectively, with participants discussing strategies for striking a balance between high-energy teaching and moments of reflection. Alistair likened the approach to a tailored gym session, gradually assessing and building upon students' capabilities.  

The webinar concluded with expressions of gratitude from the hosts and a shared sentiment of hope that the insights shared would resonate with attendees, inspiring them to explore the role of energy in pedagogy further. 







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