As I read the assigned chapters in our Vella text, I was struck by the idea of structureless teaching. Not so much from the standpoint of walking into a classroom with no agenda or framework for your session, but perhaps structured – yet, without involvement. While the examples she gave on pages 13 and 14 were relatable, it also brought me to realize that at times perhaps the structure I create is based on what I think I want or should tell them. But do I always consider what they may be bringing to the table already? What drove them to come in the first place? And how does that feel to those students that have been lead by their passions or situations to attend, but yet the structure does not speak to what it is that they were hoping to come to know?
I consider a conversation I had just today as a fellow instructor set up for a class; an all day course that includes difficult conversation and multiple opportunities for students to begin to change (or decide to change) their behavior. Learning opportunities perhaps that could be even more so enhanced simply with a little pre-knowledge of your audience. A fact that was recognized as we discussed two of the attendees and what we knew of them as she considered the best group assignment for them, and perhaps ensuring that they did not end up together. While this speaks perhaps more to knowing their personalities, we also considered their knowledge, experience and individual needs in hopefully ensuring the best learning environment for them and those around them…..And yet, how often do we truly get to know our participants like this? But how beneficial can it be when we do?
And I’m not saying that we should begin to host a spaghetti dinner at our house before each class, but even a simple email to reach out when we send out our reminders? Or when they call to sign up, ask them a few questions to really see what they are bringing to the table and what they are hoping for. As I contemplate these thoughts, I find myself more eager to discover what these “seven design steps” are as I turn the page to chapter three. How often am I truly living up to the structured design that Vella speaks of, or am I instead structuring it more based on myself and what I think they need instead of simply…asking? After all, asking does not form the course – as Vella points out- it really only informs (and perhaps enhances:) it.
“Designing means preparing a flexible structure for inviting and enhancing learning by explicitly naming who is present, what the situation is that calls for this learning, the time frame and the site for the event, the comprehensive content and learning objectives (…) and finally, the learning tasks and necessary materials.” (Vella, pg 31)