Improving pedagogy for academics UPDATED

Just a short post today, as I’m in the middle of the UACES annual conference in Passau, Germany, and am just about to go and be a discussant on a learning and teaching panel: I’ll talk about those ideas next week.  Instead, I’m going to talk about how we run conferences.

We make a lot of effort to improve the learning environment for students, creating engaging and active activities to improve learning. But come conference time, we treat ourselves almost always to the old, passive model of listening to presentations.  So why don’t we try something different (NB I do know why, but let’s get past all that)?

My thought on this was as follows.  Have a panel with 3 or 4 papers, as normal, but with a twist. Each paper presenter is guaranteed a 2 minute slot (yes, 2 minutes), after which they have to shut up. You then give the audience the power to decide if they want more: maybe with voting handsets to avoid awkward conversations in the coffee-break afterwards. Each round of voting would give a presenter a further 2 minutes. This continues until no one wants any more.

The structure would encourage presenters to focus on the key messages, rather than the extraneous detail. It would allow the audience an active role. It would enforce more meaningful time management than often takes place (or doesn’t). And it would be memorable (if possibly for the wrong reasons).

Something to think on. I’m off now, to see if I can convince anyone else of trying out.

UPDATE: 6 September 2012

I talked to some people after this: I got mixed reactions, which I’d expected. But no-one I talked to was totally opposed (maybe I talk to odd people).

However, I’m not totally satisfied with the idea, so I spent more time thinking about it. And here’s version 2. The audience has voting pads, as before. Each speaker now has 15 minutes, but this can be changed by the audience. The voting would be continuous (Microsoft offer something like this), expressing interest (or lack of), which in turn would either add extra time (or remove it). Each speaker would be guaranteed 10 minutes minimum, 20 minutes maximum. You’d need to project remaining time somewhere (and probably the aggregate voting), but it would work better than the original idea, because it’d flow more, there would be scope for the speaker to respond to the audience’s needs, and drop-offs in attention would be more clearly marked.

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