You have 50 or 80 minutes at a time and a room full of students. (If you're a speaker/trainer/sales or marketing pro, you have a room full of professionals. Read on, and get the bonus messages.) You do your best to reach them with active learning techniques, the effective use of technology, and/or meaningful assessments and questions. You almost feel like you have to be a superhero to ensure everyone gets it ... to ensure everyone is engaged ... to ensure everyone is positioned to see utility in the information you provide. Put some of the responsibility on your students' shoulders, and have them do this one thing - regardless of their major and regardless of what you teach - to positively influence the trajectory of their academic success. That one thing is ...
"College is not the thirteenth grade."
How many of you can remember hearing something to that effect being announced at freshman orientation when you were a student, starting out on your college journey? You may have facetiously gasped in surprise. You may have rolled your eyes at the absurdity of the statement. (You were seventeen- or eighteen-years-old at the time, so that would have been totally normal, right?) You may have laughed it off.
Or you may have had a moment of clarity and a lightbulb popped on.
Think back to the last time you had a really good conversation. What did the other person do that made the engagement such a good experience? Did he have good (or even juicy!) information? Did she answer a big question you had? Did it feel like your listener enjoyed being there and was both physically and mentally present in the moment?
You grab and maintain audience attention - in-person and online - by immediately solving a mystery and giving the audience what it needs, by providing the audience something useful. The truth is you want to be able to hear a pin drop. Because you’ve researched and you know what the audience wants, you have people listening closely and ready to chime in as opposed to bored and waiting for the session to end. And it all starts with a shift in attitude.
You have prepared for what you believe is a killer presentation. You have your technology ready. You have picked the perfect setting. You are ready to make this live remote presentation one for the history books.
Okay. Perhaps that's a bit melodramatic; however, you get my point. You have invested time, energy, and research in designing a meaningful session to deliver to an audience of listeners who are located all over the country -- possibly around the globe. However, full calendars and busy lives can preclude your target audience from attending the session live, and you have more who opt to catch the recording at a later date that's more convenient for them.
While you can understand and respect those realities, it does nothing to make you feel better about preparing to present a live web-based presentation or a synchronous class session, right?
A friend and colleague once shared with me people make time for what's important to them. End of story. So with that, let's identify three ways you can make your session important to your prospective audience, so everyone's not putting it off until a later date but is showing up live and ready.
The first three secrets simply were not enough, right? I am sharing with you some of my "hindsight is 20/20" educator revelations after reading Ken Bain's What the Best College Teachers Do. Reading this book evoked "ah-ha!" moments one after another after another; I realized how I could have been far, far more effective in the classroom many moons ago if only I had known then what I know now.
Read on, and see what ah-ha! moments you have!
Secret #4: It does not have to be a lightning round of Jeopardy!, but demonstrate for students it is expected and acceptable to ask questions. And they may (and should!) do so without fear. And this fear is dissipated by you inviting their voices. Start each class in a way that signals to students your voice will not be the only one that is heard in the classroom.
These are three of six secrets I learned many years after entering the classroom as an educator and after getting my hands on a copy of Ken Bain's What the Best College Teachers Do. (And, yes, I wish I had this book before I started teaching!)
I have found the time has now come to no longer keep the secrets to myself or within the four virtual corners of my online classrooms; here are quotes from Bain's book that led me to those secrets, and I trust they will lead you to discover/uncover some teaching secrets of your own!
Bain writes "We cannot take single pieces … and simply combine them with other, less effective or even destructive habits and expect them to transform … teaching …" (p. 20).
He goes on to suggest instead we should "… make a systematic and reflective appraisal of … teaching approaches and strategies, [and ask 'Why do you do] certain kinds of things and not others[?]'" (p. 21)
So here's secret #1: Just as adding fresh herbs to a piece of burnt fish does not make it better neither does adding effective teaching practices to a collection of less than effective approaches improve the classroom experience. Make a conscious effort to review, reflect, and revamp.