Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Student Engagement

Despite the technological problems I am seeing evidence of great engagement with the leadership project. It is really exciting to me how the students are organising themselves and their studies - they are way ahead of the timetable in terms of reading up on the topic of leadership because they are on a tight schedule to finish their work in time for the presentations at the end of March. They are also reading far beyond the learning materials that are available to them and are teaching each other about key leadership theories and traits, by posting short documents giving a precis of key theories and by adding comments and critiques to film clips they are uploading.

Attendance at the lectures and seminars is good and engagement is high - lots of  discussions, questions and very lively "team meetings" are taking place to ensure their projects are completed. In between times, the wiki notifications tell me that a core are working on the project late into the evenings, over the weekend and that they are also arranging team meetings outside of the class time I have put aside for these. There is good evidence that they are supporting one another - one group has posted a summary of the last seminar discussions for those members who didn't attend.

Interestingly there is a spirit of competitiveness emerging too - the groups are quite secretive about their chosen films and the theoretical stances they are taking. On the one hand this is positive as it makes for even stronger cohesion within the teams themselves, on the other I find it curious as final grades will not be given on a ranking of 1st, 2nd and 3rd! The desire to do really well and outshine others is emerging from within the teams themselves.

As part of the module next week we will be looking at what motivates people and I will be using this great RSA animation of Dan Pink's talk about "Drive"(Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink. Riverhead Books, 2009). What I draw from this is that the teams as I observe them in my module are engaged and motivated because they have a lot of autonomy over style, topic, group membership, meeting times, etc. The reward for their efforts is relatively modest - 10% of the marks for the entire module, but they are having fun, they are being challenged and in teaching one another, they are also perhaps making a contribution.

Does their level of motivation have anything to do with the use of technology? Arguably they could be having as much fun putting together the usual PowerPoint presentations, if they were allowed a choice of topic and group members. However, perhaps what the wiki and the other platforms they are using do is present a  level of challenge and the opportunity to master a new skill, alongside the topic they are studying.

And by using film and TV characters as the basis of their learning, which also might be argued as working with technology, they are freed from the usual constraints of the textbook and the classroom. They are exploring further afield and finding their own examples which help them understand the theory - often with humour or powerful drama which make the points all the more memorably. A number have commented that they enjoy the project as they are "learning without realising it".

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