The Teaching Revolution: not only a Lecturers’ challenge

By Renata da Hora (3rd year Digital Media BA)

Reading Pam Tatlow’s article ‘British Universities Are In Need Of A Teaching Revolution, for the newspaper The Guardian, I noticed the need to talk about the student’s role in the ‘teaching revolution’ that is to come.  As Tatlow says in her article, ‘the UK needs to give students the responsibility to engage’, and although this seems to be a really simple task, this is not what usually happens in classes. 

I am a 3rd year undergraduate student at London Met, and looking back to my previous years I have learned how to take a bit more advantage of my modules as a student.  If you think like me, then this is what usually happens: when you are at school, you are ‘forced’ to pay attention to classes that not always (or most of the time) are not at all of your interest, and we all know that this can be very demotivating. Then you go to university, and you finally have the opportunity to choose which career you want to study. And this sounds very motivating! You choose modules that seem to have everything to do with what you want for your career, and then you finally get to class to sometimes realise that it was not really what you were expecting, and that can make you very demotivated again.

The lecturer doesn’t look passionate, or the material presented doesn’t seem very attractive, or you are just too tired from other activities (work, children, etc), or maybe you’re not a native English speaker and you don’t really understand everything the teacher says (it did happen to me sometimes on my first year)… any of those reasons could be to blame when you get bored and stop taking interest in the module. But did you ever stop to think that you are part of the class as much as the lecturers are? Well, it took time for me to realise it, but after it happened, my classes started to be more pleasant, as I started to participate.

When you and your classmates take part actively in the class, with your opinions, with relevant comments about something that could relate to the class, or even with doubts, you complement the teachers’ work; and more than that, you make them feel like they are not only ‘talking to the wall’. It may not seem obvious, but even the most passionate lecturer can get bored too when looking at student’s dying faces with speechless mouths. And in these cases, everybody loses! Lecturers can start looking like machines, students startlooking like ID numbers, and all the learning process is transformed into a mechanical practise.

Whatever the reason why you get bored (or even start to fall asleep, as we can see at the picture above), there is always a way to fight back, and that is to collaborate in class. Something that helps me in interacting better during the classes is to have a look at the module booklet (at London Met this should be available on Weblearn), and find out what the topic will be for my next lecture. Once you do that, you can do the reading for the weeks in advance, and if you do not have time, or if you are not really interested about some academic readings, you can try to look for anything related to the topic that interests you, and bring it to class. This works very well for me, and I believe it can make you less ‘lost’ during lectures (specially for non native speakers with difficulties of understanding), and can bring up questions in your mind, which will make you feel more interested. Some lecturers don’t allow much interaction during the lectures, but you can still take note of your comments and questions for the seminars.

As for the hard workers that are too tired for classes after work, it is worth taking a moment before class starts.  A big cup of coffee, a chat with the friends, or even a small ‘meditation’ can work well for you to recover your energies a bit before class starts!

Being motivated is not a simple task, but for a teaching revolution to happen, and for better ‘use’ for our (future) careers, we students have to understand that we have to be proactive. For some people it is difficult to get organised for classes, and as a student I also fail to do it sometimes, and thus also find myself demotivated. But knowing that I am part of classes as much as everybody in the classroom is, and that it is also my responsibility to engage, definitely gives more strength for the modules I am not that keen on, and a lot of joy to the subjects I am most interested in!