Reflections from a "master" teacher: It's never too late to learn

This story is written by Dr. Nancy Booker, Assistant Professor and Director - Academic Affairs, Graduate School of Media and Communications​ (GSMC)

​I thought I should share my reflections regarding a course that I am teaching for the second time. The first time I taught this course was in January 2018. I hadn't enrolled for any of the workshops offered by the Network of Quality Teaching and Learning so I was relying on my prior experience and anything I could find online regarding the flipped classroom approach.  I now have the advantage of having attended two workshops namely the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Workshop (TLEW) in April 2018 and Re-thinkin​​g Teaching (RTT) Workshop in November 2018. During the Re-thinking teaching workshop, I redesigned a different course but applied the ideas to the course I am currently teaching.

The result: My first class this semester was great. I went home elated by the three-hour class session we had. I was even able to get on a Skype call after class and work for another hour! Ordinarily, I would be so exhausted after class that driving myself home​ would be a nightmare – partly because as a teacher I would do most of the talking – you all know how we sometimes like the sound of our own voices. Well, not yesterday. This is how my three-hour class ran.

5:30 – 6:00 pm: We started at 5:30 pm with some housekeeping and a re-cap of the assessments the students will be undertaking in the Digital Journalism course this semester. I also checked with them whether they had completed their prior readings and made short notes as indicated on VLE. They were also to watch a short video that had been shared on VLE. During the orientation week, Edward insisted that I walk them through my course on VLE. Initially, I was timid. I didn't think I had done much but with his encouragement, I walked the students through my course on VLE and Edward was very impressed with how I had infused different ways of teaching and how I had flipped the classroom.​

6:00 – 6:30 pm: I put the students in groups of 5, to discuss the readings. I had developed a set of questions based on the readings and the video they watched. I also had questions that would allow them to reflect on their own organizations and their everyday work experience in the current media ecosystem. These discussions were animated. They couldn't stop talking among themselves. As I walked from group to group, I saw the class come alive and the passion to share with each other was evident.

6:30 – 7:00 pm: I selected a few questions that I wanted us to reflect on jointly as a class. Since they had discussed these in their groups, the feedback session was very rich. Please note this is a skill I learnt from RTT workshop in Karachi. I saw how Jacque would run the sessions and I said to myself, "I must to do that when I get back to Nairobi." I also got a chance to share bits of my lecture notes with the class and they could see how my presentation related to what they were experiencing in their workplaces. Boom! They were able to relate theory and practice. We then took a quick tea break before settling down for a panel discussion with invited guests from the media industry.

7:15 – 8:30 pm: Each of the guests had a brief regarding what areas they would focus on during their presentation – they would speak to various issues regarding the media ecosystem from a local, regional and global perspective and the import of this to journalism practice and more importantly to storytelling – which is what my course is all about. Each spoke for 5-6 minutes then we opened it up for Q and A. Let me state that I had this same panel last year and it was exhausting to run because I did all the work and ran the show. This time the students engaged panellists much more. They had questions ready. Remember they had read, discussed in groups and then discussed as a class and I had pushed them to think about some of the issues that were emerging and challenged them to engage the panellists because they are the practitioners.

This session went very well. At some point, there were so many questions that I had to seek their indulgence to extend the class by about 10 minutes so that we could have a few more questions addressed. When it was finally over at 8:40 pm no one wanted to go home. They stayed on, debated further in small groups and engaged the panellists further - in small groups or as individuals. The panellists said they also learnt a lot from the students.

What I have learnt from this.

One, my teaching experience has improved greatly since I took the courses you offer and for that, I am eternally grateful. Having taught for so long (never mind that I am not a trained teacher. I am an expert in my field) I kept wondering what there was to learn about teaching. I had been there, done that! Well, I have learnt a lot in the past year from TLEW and RTT workshops and will continue to learn so that I can improve the experience for my students.

Two, flipping the classroom is the best way to get students – particularly in the graduate programmes, to learn. They share so much with each other and they learn better from each other. I am working with students who come to class with so much knowledge and practice as they are practitioners. I sometimes wonder what more there is to learn for them, but it is amazing just how many walk out saying, "that was a good class, I learnt so much." But, for this to happen, one needs to do lots of preparation before class.   It is what the teacher does prior to the 3-hour lecture that will determine how well the class runs and how much learning takes place. Hence proper planning and structuring of the lesson, the activities and other teaching resources are key.

I continue to improve my teaching and the learning experience for my students' every day. It is a journey but with your help, I am well on course! Thank you and looking forward to more engagements with the team. I will update you as we go along.​