Apr 26

Engaging Teaching

One of the adolescence education program at Canisius’ strong points is its across-the-board stress of using engaging pedagogical techniques in the classroom. These techniques are actions that attempt to make learning and education impactful, relevant and stimulating for students. It is the teacher’s job to try to find methods of instruction that fit these criteria and to make the material meaningful to the student in the “space” he or she is. That is, material must have meaning to the student’s life or they are not as likely to learn and retain the important lessons being taught.

This seemed to me to be a daunting prospect when I first entered the classroom at Canisius. I did not graduate from high school THAT long ago (only 10 years), but my experience is drastically different than that of students now. Cell phones were not commonplace. Most of the exciting educational technologies that we have now were in their infancy, if they existed at all. In fact, Facebook did not exist yet. It was the golden age of AOL Instant Messenger. I was very nervous about how I could go about relating to my students in a meaningful way in a technological world that is evolving so rapidly that even devices I bought a year ago are now obsolete. High school students are among the most tech-savvy people in the world and they expect that education be brought to them if they are to learn.

Canisius does a great job at preparing its students to become successful teachers when it comes to engaging students in meaningful and impactful learning. Many classes require writing lesson plans that include “anticipatory sets,” short beginning-of-class activities that try to get students interested and excited about the day’s lesson. I found this regular and continual practice to be very useful. Also stressed is the use of what is called “authentic assessment.” Going beyond (but not replacing) the stereotypical quizzes, tests, and essays, these graded assignments attempt to make students’ work more meaningful to them, which hopefully will result in a better representation of their knowledge and skills. Examples of this include a wide variety of writing assignments, including creating newspaper articles, blog posts, or even obituaries for various subjects in various fields. Another example is having students create websites of their own describing an event or concept. This can be very rewarding since it combines the reality of internet life with the material being covered. Canisius College provides a very strong background for its students to build the skills needed to become effective teachers in the twenty-first century.