Exactly twenty years ago, I walked down a corridor at Dalhousie University, on my way to the first class I ever taught. To this day, I can remember looking at the closed door, opening it, and seeing my students. That very second, what little I knew about concepts and theories in pedagogy disappeared from view, and the only thing that suddenly came to my mind was the way my old Dutch teacher started her first lesson: going around the room, shaking people’s hands and saying hello and how are you in different ways. So that’s what I did, in German. It was hands-on in more ways than one, and I suppose it did the trick.
The reason I’m telling you this story is that it showed to me the value of having practical activities prompts at the ready. As I am working on concepts in Resonance Pedagogy, my aim is to harness any conceptual work I may be doing for the benefit of enriching classroom activities.
In this post, I am highlighting five activities, which I have chosen from a box of “Impulskarten” designed by Resonance Pedagogy’s founders Hartmut Rosa, Wolfgang Endres, and Jens Beljan. They look like playing cards and give me a quote on the front, a bit of background info on the back and, just below, an idea for a little task. There are 48 of them in total, and I’ve picked some of the ones that strike me as particularly relevant to university teaching today. Here goes:
- Go into your seminar session with a burning, open-ended question. The card tells me that the reason why people love Pokémon cards is probably that they like being on a quest, a mission. Send people out on a quest. Meet them with a question that you don’t have the answer to. Engage them in co-research. Harness their ideas and strengths. They know you’re smart; the best way to show you’re smart is to ask a great question and then act as a guide.
- Ask students to formulate their own questions, too. You can do this in week 1. Invite each students to make explicit what they want to find out. In subsequent weeks, ask students to revisit that question – rephrase it, check whether it has (in part) been answered, and perhaps invite the student to come up with a follow-up question. This might, by happy coincidence, mirror the way an essay is structured. Consider whether you’d like everybody to share their question; or ask at the end of a session whether someone feels they have made some progress towards answering their question.
- Make it clear to your students that what you are sharing with them is really exciting. We cannot expect students to be engaged if we are indifferent. Choose material that intrigues you, and say what you find fascinating about it. If you are stuck with resources and tasks that colleagues have chosen, ask what they find exciting about them, or explore them in such depth that you discover an aspect of them that piques your interest.
- Let students share with each other what they found exciting about this week’s seminar content. Many students enjoy working in small groups at the start of a session. Invite student A in each group to say what they enjoyed or what struck them when preparing for the session. Students B and C then feed back to student A what they found impressive about A’s report. Student A gets a chance to respond to this feedback. Then it’s B’s turn. – This activity might sound a little complicated but what I like about it is that it directs everybody’s focus on their favourite bit of the unit, and it highlights excitement as something that is being valued and shared.
- Recognise people’s presence and contributions. Why do people spend so much time online looking at Likes and stats of various kinds that indicate that their activity has been seen? There is nothing more beautiful than the feeling of being seen and acknowledged. And there is no better way to elicit a response than to meet another person and recognise them as such – not just as a respondent, a contributor of class activity, but a specific human being with their own agency and will and imagination who I can admire and reach out to.
5 Teaching Situations video
I hope you find these ideas useful. Of the 48 cards, these five stood out to me, I guess partly because they build on what I do anyway but enable me to push myself a little further. If you have any thoughts, get in touch! Christophe.Fricker@bristol.ac.uk