Yesterday was our first day of teaching in the new semester. The late summer heat both made the classroom for my session on ‘negotiating politics’ too muggy and the playing fields outside too attractive a proposition. So we decamped.
Changing your physical environment is great for reshaping the learning environment: sitting and standing in a field means that the conventional semi-static arrangements of the classroom have to go. From a lecturer’s perspective, you can move much more easily around the group, and you are more conscious of how your voice carries (or not), forcing you to be porperly responsive to people’s engagement. From the student’s point of view, it stresses the ways in which learning is a universal process, rather than just one that happens in classrooms, and it forces them to think much more about how to balance (sometimes literally) listening, note-taking and participating.
As the shadows lengthened in the afternoon sun, we played Victor’s infamous rock-paper-scissors game: the space made moving around very easy, especially when we played a second time and people very clearly moved away from the one person enthusiastically challenging people. We even had someone hide behind a tree.
The British weather probably means I won’t get my students outside again (bustery rain, mud and laptops don’t really mix), but it really set the tone for the rest of the module. So go try it.