Communication in Science and Academic Skills
I am currently teaching Academic Skills at the Communication in Science department at Leiden University Medical Centre. Additionally, I work on a freelance basis with Leiden University.
My teaching methods are interactive, reflective and communicative. Please take a look below to see the types of skills and language I have gained teaching experience in.
Academic core skills are fundamental to student learning in higher education. Without these skills, students would have difficulty engaging in and successfully completing their BA or Masters degree courses. Further, practice in these improves student ability to communicate and produce critical scientific and academic research, principles, theories and concepts. Below I have outlined the types of academic skills I have taught and are most important for students to learn and practice.
Teaching Academic Core Skills
Efficient teachers and trainers use multiple modalities when teaching. Whether this is using the didactic method and developing a program of structured lecture series for a larger number of students to follow or using a reflective approach that encourages criticality for a small group. The key is being able to assess the situation that best certain learners needs, assets, environment and time constraints. In my career, I have had to deliver classes using various methods; didactic, reflective, learning-centred and experiential. I have a fascination with teaching strategies and approaches. Below I speak about some of the teaching experience that required me to break from my norm and develop approaches suited to the students.
Lectures and Discussion Groups
Lectured-based learning is an important aspect of university learning. However, this doesn't mean there isn't space for blended learning. During my academic skills teaching, I discovered in order to make it more efficient for students we needed to train and prepare them to listen actively and develop notetaking strategies.
Active listening and reading are both key skills required for a student to make didactic learning successful and preparatory activities such as dictagloss are useful. However, it is important for lecturers to speak in an engaging manner and provide opportunities within the tutorials for debate and discussion of the main principles raised in the lecture. While this method is thought to benefit primarily auditory learners, I learnt lecturers can engage students through integrating concept-checking mini-tests, asking critical questions, having students rephrase, summarise the lecture at the last ten minutes or having the student apply the principles in the lecture in a particular scenario. Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge proved useful to push students to achieve higher levels of criticality in their discussions and writing.
Online & Blended Learning
Recent events related to the pandemic has meant many universities having to switch to online teaching and making better use of virtual practices. It has been interesting to switch our methods in facilitating and guiding collaborative discussions with students through an online learning experiences opposed to face-to-face methods.
I have had an interest in using blended methods in teaching (please see the prezis and online methods I have used below).
See the following Prezis I created on the topic of key skills*
Listening to Lectures and Note-Taking
Zoom for tutorials
Prezi for in-class teaching and home-based preparation
Moodle and Blackboard/Canvas for organising courses and facilitating interactive sessions
Integrate short news clips from sites such as BBC News for English Learning, Songs or other appropriate authentic materials
Encourage the use of Apps to improve pronunciation such as ELSA
Google Docs to increase peer to peer learning with home-based activities
Using software to record and edit short teamwork activities to improve listening and speaking
Use of blogging for reflective learning
Reading for a Purpose and Note-taking
Learner - Centered
Putting people at the centre and being reflexive forms a key part of my teaching methodology with vulnerable communities or for one to one tutorials. Core to my teaching has been to empower students to use language as a tool to further their goals and their careers. To be able to de-code and critically assess the systems they wish to study and put forward their own thoughts and reflections. I introduce students to reflexive logs to understand their own learning processes and put forward solutions to the learning challenges they face. This can also act as a future bank of ideas and strategies going forward.
Furthering this my training with ESOL such as my 3-day training with London South Bank University in 2009 focusing on language experience and special educational needs, made it clear that all of us are learners with our unique abilities and limitations. Much of the training I encountered focused on experiential learning. Adapting materials and teaching methodologies as appropriate to the learning level and context of the student is essential.
Reflect-ive: Teaching and Researching
During my early years as a language teacher, I was introduced to Freirean reflect methodologies and the importance of allowing learners space to take control and direct the vision of their own learning.
Learning language and literacy allows one greater critical awareness of the systems and provide the potential ability to create social change.
Teaching has been fundamental to my PhD and MSSc in how I designed my research and developed relationships with my participants in the field. Realising that I learned as much as I taught during lessons, I knew that providing training to empower the forced migrants could be a viable data collection method. Teaching offered an opportunity to better connect with communities and still allow them space to take control.