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prasad's avatar

Teaching techniques?

Asked by prasad (3824 points ) August 4th, 2012

I have been asking questions regarding presentation skills and now I have the new role of a teacher. I am to start teaching soon. For now, I will teach engineering graphics / drawing to first year engineering students.

I request all teachers and non-teachers alike to share their experiences and offer any advice. Please advise for both short and long run.

I have some experience in delivering presentations in organizational settings, but teaching may need some extra skills. Tips?

Suggestions are also appreciated.

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19 Answers

zensky's avatar

Good luck. I can’t say it better than this:

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

William Arthur Ward

thorninmud's avatar

The subject matter you’re teaching is peculiar in that some of the students will have a natural talent for spacial visualization, while others will have no feel for it. That ability to manipulate objects in your imagination and see it from all angles may not be something that you can actually teach; it’s a particular form of intelligence, and not just a matter of technique or information.

Chances are that this comes easily to you, and you probably didn’t have to work hard to develop it. It can be difficult when someone with an inborn skill has to teach someone without it. Since it probably wasn’t something that you had to go through a process of acquiring, it may be a challenge to understand why someone can have a hard time with this.

This requires a difficult skill: the ability to put yourself in the place of someone who’s mind is built differently from yours. I don’t have any special tricks to help you do that, but just know that this is what will be required.

Good Luck!

YARNLADY's avatar

I can’t really think of anything, but I will tell you about an experience with an art teacher that really changed my way of looking at things. I cannot draw well.

I drew a picture of a stream running through a forest. I drew many, many trees, and it took me a long time. The teacher said “Very good, just strengthen the tree with a few connected branches.” He took my marker and drew in a few branches that turned my entire forest into a large tree right in the foreground of the picture. I was amazed at the way he saw it, as opposed to the way I drew it. I got an A.

the100thmonkey's avatar

Try this.

I’ve used it with 1st year Japanese undergraduates of materials and chemical engineering. I used it to teach English, though. YMMV.

janbb's avatar

Unless you are a really dynamic lecturer which most of us aren’t, it would be a good idea to vary your presentation with discussion questions or a way of invoking some student input. That makes the class more interesting to the students.

creative1's avatar

The best teacher I ever had inspired me to go searching for answers. He made the learning fun by loving his subject enough to make you feel as he did about it. He always left us questioning why and we went searching for the answers.

Kayak8's avatar

I just posted about a book I am reading that has direct application for what you are discussing. It is entitled Mindset and talks about two primary mindsets that people have. It is written by a psychologist and includes many examples from athletics and education. It is too hard to explain in this short space, but I highly recommend it and think you will find it completely changes your perspective on the role of the teacher!

Earthgirl's avatar

@prasad Congratulations on your teaching position.
I think the main difference between presentation and teaching is that teaching is way more interactive. The degree to which you can help your student’s mastery of the material depends a lot on class size and length of time to cover the course material. Both of these things will limit or enhance your ability to help your students no matter how high your motivation to help them excel may be.

What you’re going to be teaching is technical material. So as much as I think inspiration and self motivation can be important to learning I have to say that in this case, being open to questions and being clear in the way you present the material will be even more important.

I have been trying to learn Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for some time. I recently had two teachers who helped me make great gains and so my answer is based on what I feel they did right and what was helpful to me.

One class was on learning the pen tool in Photoshop and Illustrator.. I thought it was genius of this instructor to come up with the idea to have a class entirely focussed on just learning the pen tool. Why? Because in Illustrator especially, and to a lesser degree in Photoshop it is the core skill that you need to master the program. So I would advise you to think what is the elemental skill that your students need to master to be good at Engineering graphics. Give them exercises and approach it from all kinds of angles and applications. Try to have patience with those that have trouble learning. It may not come easy to everyone but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying. Especially in an intro course I think this is crucial.

On the other hand, if you have a student who is already skilled in the material, give them something challenging to work out so they can progress faster. Extra material could take the form of tutorials to download, exercises and written handouts If it’s too advanced for some in the class they can move onto it at a later date and for those who show great ability it allows them to stretch their wings a bit.

Try to have the things you cover in class in a written form. Too often I have missed a step in how to do something and felt lost. There isn’t always time in a big class to ask all of your questions and go over the material again. If I have a written version of the exercise I can go back and figure it out and do it in my own time. It also helps if I learn something but don’t practice it for a while and forget. I always keep all my classroom notes. I think in CAD it’s especially important. When you are following the instructor on your computer how can you be taking notes at the same time??!

The other instructor that I had was excellent in so many ways. He was careful to gauge the level of his students knowledge and assess what they wanted to get out of the course before he even started to teach. This was done with a questionnaire on the first day of class. He read the students answers and applied it to what he covered in the class. He would take an example of something a student was trying to do and then he would show how to accomplish it using the tools and techniques of the program. I think it’s so much easier to learn something specific as a solution to a problem than with vague generalities. For example, one student was trying to do a design based on seashells and he showed the class how to import a photo reference and turn it into a drawing.

At the same time he stayed focused on the basic material that he felt he had to cover in the class. We didn’t have a lot of time but he did his best to give us a good overview of the programs possibilities and that was inspiring.. It was also inspiring to hear stories about his own textile designs and how they had evolved from idea stage to finished product.

I hope this is helpful to you and I wish you much luck!!!

LostInParadise's avatar

Since what you will be teaching is so strongly visual, you might consider making videos showing certain techniques. Khan Academy math lectures are a good example. Videos have the advantage of allowing students to review the material at their own pace. They can pause or replay parts.

I heard a talk given by Salman Khan (it might have been a TED lecture). He said that he originally got the idea of making videos as a way of helping his relatives. He knew that the videos were a good idea when he was told that they were better than having him teach in person.

Adagio's avatar

A memorable lecturer I once had always spent time at the end of the lecture asking questions that related directly to what she had just taught, from my perspective it was a great way to allow our minds to actually process and use the information she had just fed us, thereby enabling easy retention of knowledge, it was the case for me anyway.

The worst teacher I had was also the laziest teacher, she taught history by simply turning her back on the class and writing everything on the blackboard, we copied it directly into our exercise books, there was never any discussion about anything.

prasad's avatar

@zensky A great quote indeed that I shall remember throughout my teaching career!
@thorninmud Yes, the subject does require some sort of imagination. It came easy to me as I practised drawing (from arts view) before, so I knew little about it before engineering. Thank you for pointing that out. I must remember that. I am planning to use actual models, videos, and animations wherever possible to aid students understand it properly.
@YARNLADY That’s an amazing experience. The teacher must me very skilled to see such things, probably lateral thinking!
@the100thmonkey That looks interesting and is new to me. I will research a bit before using it.
@janbb I will prepare for invoking questions and some discussions to make the lecture more interactive.
@creative1 Nice approach. I might be able to use it in geometric constructions!
@Kayak8 A book like that would definitely serve a guide to me.Do you mean this book Mindset?
@Earthgirl Your examples on Photoshop and Illustrator are particularly helpful, since I occur to know both these programs. I liked how the instructors’ approach. I will try to implement it some day. By the way, I can also use flash to make some exploratory animations. Thank you for letting me know how I should tackle already skilled student, written version of exercise, having patience with slow learners and well for many other tips!
@LostInParadise Oh yes, I used to like videos often. In addition to helping students visualize correctly, it can also make the lecture interesting.
@Adagio That’s a great idea. I was planning to summarize points at the end of the lecture. Asking questions this way may well serve the purpose of summarizing and also keep discussion as part of the lecture.

prasad's avatar

I would like to share a story my grandma used to tell me. Before that, I will just prepare the background for you.

In ancient India, educational system was different. There were no universities nor educational institutions, but renowned teachers or guru. When boys turned 8, they were sent to one such renowned guru nearby; even prince was to go and there was no discretion. They used to live in the ashram, place where they used to study and live, and where the guru lived. They used to live there until they turn 18 or 20. Then, they used to come back and took up their professions (usually of their father).

Here goes the story: There was one such wise and kind guru. He taught a batch of students and all went their way to earning. Unfortunately, one of the students faced many difficulties and failed to earn a living. Let down by people, he flew into a forest and became a robber. He then robbed whoever passed through the forest and cut fingers of those who refused. Soon, he became infamous and people were afraid to go through the forest. The news reached his guru. One day, his guru came there. He looked much older and was always engrossed into some kind of deep worry. Refusing advice of people, he went into the forest. He sat under a tree, still in worry. Then came this robber, but the robber recognized his guru; however, the guru didn’t recognize his student. The robber asked what he is doing in the forest. The guru replied he is deeply worried about one of his students. The robber thus asked why. The guru said he is trying to find out where exactly he (guru) went wrong in teaching his student. Hearing this the robber was moved and surrendered to the guru.

My grandma used to tell me this story every year on the day of Guru Pornima, teacher’s day as per Hindu calendar.

prasad's avatar

Today, I delivered my first lecture; quite introductory. And now I can see your suggestions from a new point of view. Well I need it. I was afraid that I would be nervous and might face stage fright. But perhaps, due to experience of earlier presentations it didn’t pose much difficulty. However, I confess that I found out that teaching a class of 60 is much much more difficult than corporate presentations. Biggest hurdle I faced was my low voice. I nearly yelled, but students on last benches couldn’t hear me. Second, I found it little difficult to explain certain things. But making my voice louder is the first priority.

Here is my one hour lecture. I wrote name of subject, my name, and (to the left) three points that I would cover in the lecture. Three points, in order, are: Meaning of Eng. Graphics, why study the subject, syllabus and structure of the question paper. Before commencing, we played a little activity of writing address of student’s companion, who is sitting on the same bench, and exchanging notebooks. Some could understand the address, some knew it already. So, I told to draw an approximate map, and many more did understand it better. So, I generalized that drawings can convey a message easily – a picture paints thousand words. Next, I drew some outlines on the board and asked students to write its description. Figures were a square, a circle, a cylinder, a cone, and some complex object (just outlines, no hidden line). So students did tell all except last one. But then I brought to their attention a circle can also be a sphere and a cone can be a sector of a circle (that’s why no hidden line). And explained how some basic knowledge of drawing is necessary.

Then I dived into little history, and here in particular students were listening attentively. Here it is. In 1300s when different colonizers were competing with each other, they often fought wars. Military machines used in these wars were referred to as “engines” at that time. And, constructor of these military machines was called “engine’er”…explained further “graphic” came from Greek “graphikos” meaning writing, drawing, picturesque. And finally, said engineering drawings depict requirements (shape, size, etc.).

Then I told how drawings are used in organizations as most convenient way to communicate requirements. Again, I dwelt little on why study part. As we know what +, -, ×, ÷ mean when we press those symbols on a calculator, and as we know how to write a text before asking a word processor to check it, in the same way it is necessary to know little manual drawing before we could use CAD software packages to help ourselves with design. Then explained structure of question paper, which questions or topics are compulsory, how much they weigh, etc.

A couple of students met after the lecture and told me that they were interested to listen, but could not hear me. I said I will summarize again. So as per students’ too, I need to crank up my volume.

Mariah's avatar

@prasad, is getting a microphone an option? Several of my professors use them, ones that clip onto your shirt so they’re not conspicuous. It definitely helps when you’re dealing with a large lecture hall.

donduck's avatar

@prasad :Awesome explaination of your first day!! It seems you have delivered your first lecture quite nicely.You covered your points on subject matter by giving examples which is great teaching technique.Certainly you will find that ‘Your’ learning process will start as well.You will have to go through interesting facts which you can tell your students.

prasad's avatar

@Mariah Yes, it’s up to me. College doesn’t provide one. I can get it on my own. I used one similar microphone in an international conference earlier. I would like to try few times, and if my voice doesn’t improve by then, then I may get a microphone. All other professors here can do without microphone, no one uses it. So, I’m little anxious. And, I want to see how far I can raise my volume.

@donduck Thank you. Without prior preparation, however, I don’t think I would have done any better. I think, it’s an advantage for me to have worked from lower level to up; I worked as a helper, operator or worker, supervisor, quality control engineer, manufacturing engineer, industrial engineer, assistant manager,..I actually started my engineering career by cleaning machines, lifting and moving parts, and then gradually I learned many things from workers. And, I have visited around 15 or 20 organizations as a consultant. With this accumulated experience, it comes easy to think of different examples or applications of what we study. I might excel in this as compared to academicians, but I am no good with higher level intellectual theories (e.g. Einstein’s theory of relativity). I am a slow learner myself!

prasad's avatar

Well, let me tell you first that I could now raise my voice sufficiently so students at far corners have told me that they hear me. Thanks all of you for your great tips and advice!

First week, I struggled how to explain in simpler ways. I guess, small sentences and straight forward sentences should be used. Actually on first day, students were confused whether I am another student or a teacher, that’s all right, they know me now.

Can anyone suggest where on the internet shall I upload study materials? I would like to share the material (notes, scanned pages, powerpoint presentations, etc.) with students so that they can access it any time. Tumblr? Blogger?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I can’t recommend a website, as we wanted to keep our training materials out of the hands of just anyone. We loaded all class materials on the laptops, the students could add their own notes to the electronic documents, and then saved them to a flash drive to take with them once the class ended.

We also used our company’s internal website for pre-class documents that could be downloaded and printed if desired.

prasad's avatar

That sounds great! I am probably thinking of sharing some notes, tips, and some more questions for students.

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