Monday, June 2, 2014

Micro-teaching Reflections

April 3, 2014, the day I did my first ever micro-teaching. The task was rather daunting for me, as I have never actually taught adult group of students before. I received good feedback from my micro-teaching peers and a lot of ideas for improvements as well, most of which are suggestions on using more creative interest trigger and approach. I really value the comments they gave. Here's a screenshot from my micro-teaching video.

As I remember it, during the session, I was able to convey my content well. My pace was slow and easy to follow, and my voice tone was friendly and I showed my passion in the subject that I presented. I used a blank screen as a trigger to capture the attention of my students (my topic was extinction, the blank slide was just to symbolize it) and I thought that worked well. But during the feed back session, some of my micro-teaching peers actually mentioned that they thought the blank slides were unintentional technical problems and helping me to sort that out was what they had in mind.

Looking back at the video, I realized that my language command was not good, in fact it was far from good. I stuttered multiple times. There were times when I was out of words mostly due to nervousness. My pace was actually very slow in the beginning. I could have created a more interesting interaction with my students if I had delivered my lecture faster.

My experiences so far with the English level of my real students
Most of my Veterinary Bioscience Level 1 students have very good command of English. Some students actually volunteered to rephrase my questions during the lecture to help their classmates to come up with the right answer. When I paused to search for proper words to better explain a concept, my students sometimes ask questions or attempted to guess the words I was looking for. I find this helpful as I was able to grasp the attention of the class when their friends actively participated. They tend to give more input as well.

Attempts to improve my communication with my real students
I always started my class by asking my students, "HOW ARE YOU TODAY?". It helped me set the mood for the lesson. I also share interesting news of the day that I can relate to the lesson, if there is any. I am also teaching a Level 2 module (Animal Developmental Biology & Genetics) and another Level 1 module (Animal Welfare, Behaviour and Handling). I showed them videos on the histories of both topics during the break time (around 5 minutes break) and it really helped in setting the mood and grasping their attention for the following part of the lecture.

I also watched YouTube videos on lecture presentations related to my module and learned from the examples they used to clarify the important concepts. By watching the presentations, I learn to pause when necessary, walk around the class to interact with my students, have more eye contact, try different types of voice tones when I can, and try to improve my English by practicing proper diction.

Students' prior knowledge - "fake students" vs actual classes
My actual group of students have about equal knowledge when compared with my "fake students" when it comes to the wildlife subject despite the age gap. This is most probably because of the actual students' high interest in animals, so they tend to have the initiative to read and hence know more about this topic. I conducted the same micro-teaching lecture (but in 1 hour duration) to the actual students and when I asked them the same questions I asked during micro-teaching to my "fake students", the answers they gave were more or less similar. This showed that both group of students (fake and actual) were actually able to grasp the concepts that I delivered.

Students' command of language
I perceived that my "fake students" have very good command of language as they are adult learners. True enough, they actually are very good. For my actual students, I knew that their English is good (based on their O level results). As I have stated earlier, some of them are able to rephrase or rather simplify my questions to ease their friends in answering the questions.

Quantity and depth of contents
In my micro-teaching, the content that I delivered was rather small and was not covered in detail. I only managed to define some important terms and outline the key concepts, but no discussion was done due to time constraint. For my lecture with the actual students, I was able to create small discussion topics about each endangered species, and even showed more interesting and inspiring short videos about wildlife conservation works and we discussed as well as had healthy arguments based on that. Students were able to throw ideas about the ideal and the real-world wildlife management issues. I realized that by doing this, they were able to understand the concepts better and also analyzed the approach first before they discussed.

Tone and variation of voice
During the micro-teaching, I thought I was clear in my pronunciation. After watching the video, I felt that I was too slow in delivering the content especially in the beginning and if I had done it faster, I could have elaborated each key concept.

Confidence level
During the micro-teaching, I was very nervous. But in the video I actually looked more confident. In my actual class, I think I am more confident and able to project my voice (speak louder) when the need arises.

Body language
I moved my hand a lot while speaking, and it really shows in the video (refer to photo above). I do not know if this is good or should be avoided as I have no one commenting about this to me, as yet.

Use of humour
I am not good at cracking jokes as I am naturally a quiet person. Most of my jokes are in written form (as shown in my slides), but I only use this when I think it is appropriate. I need to improve on this aspect.

In my micro-teaching, I received good response from my "fake students". All of them actually participated. In my actual class, I received good response as well, and a student actually requested me to share my work experiences (I worked as a wildlife veterinarian before), which I did and I think this was a good interest trigger.

Percentage of times "students" spoke during the class
About 30% of the time in my micro-teaching (approximately 3 minutes out of the 10 minutes) - when I asked them questions. In actual class, my students were more interactive, they raised their hands and stopped me in the middle of my lecture whenever they have questions. We also have group discussions towards the end of each lesson.

Overall, I think I did well during the micro-teaching but a lot of things need to be polished too. I plan to improve by practicing before lecture, be more well-prepared, be more confident and lecturing in a slightly faster pace. I would also like to try to do more creative approaches of teaching (using props or tech aids).
Creating more learner-centered approach is also one of my aims and I will start by finding activities that can be suitable for the contents. My other aims are to improve on time management, language skills and to build closer rapport with the students.