4 Challenges Instructors Face to Stay Current in 2020 and Tips to Overcome Them
Knerd Staff | February 4, 2020
Teaching Higher Ed in 2020 is no easy task. Consistent change has left many instructors facing an uphill battle to stay current. And while keeping up to date on the latest technology and teaching trends can be difficult enough on its own, it can be even more challenging to actually implement these new ideas in the classroom, with many instructors facing a lack of time, limited colleague and student support, and inadequate resources.
Still, the benefit for both you and your students can far outweigh the effort once you overcome these obstacles. To help get you there faster, below are a few of the most common challenges instructors cite when asked why they wait to change, along with tips to help you overcome these roadblocks when making the move for yourself.
- Lack of time – For most instructors, it’s hard enough to find time for their normal responsibilities, so the thought of adding to those by incorporating new technology or teaching technique can seem overwhelming. Still, as studies show more about the different ways that students learn, it’s important to incorporate those learning where applicable to help give students a better chance at success.
How do you modify your teaching methods without spending hours on prep work?
- Check with your colleagues to see if any have started to use or incorporate the new technique you’re looking into, and if so, see if they have tips or resources to make the process easier. Having a heads up on some common challenges you might face and how others have handles those could save you time in the long run.
- Look for online resources to help with your transition. There are a variety of tools available online these days to help you incorporate new techniques into the classroom with pre-built lesson plans, activities, and more—saving you time and making your life a little easier. Here are a few recommended resources, but the internet is large and instructors are everywhere—blogs, Facebook groups, Twitter, Instagram, and more. Thus, you’re likely not the only one having your issue, so run a search or post a question and see where that takes you.
- Inside Higher Ed – https://www.insidehighered.com/
- The Chronicle of Higher Education – https://www.chronicle.com/
- Higher Education Today – https://www.higheredtoday.org/
- Use courseware that accommodates active learning so you can ensure your students get the activities they need without having to spend the time creating them yourself. Plus, ask the courseware publisher if they have any helpful resources or a community of users specific to their product where you can share ideas, challenges, and solutions. If someone has already worked through an issue you’re currently facing, maybe they’ll have helpful tips for getting over the hump faster. Plus, these communities can often answer questions at all hours of the days versus courseware suppliers’ hours.
- Have your students help. Be open and honest about what you’re looking to update and bring them in on some of the decision making. Often, time is wasted trying to decide what’s best for others when we should just ask. Save some time by first testing the modifications students are most open to trying themselves and then wait to bring in other ideas or additional modifications only if more adaptation or optimization is needed.
- Lack of training and support within departmental culture – Going hand in hand with a lack of time is a lack of training and colleague support. It can take a lot of time to get yourself up to speed on new technology or new teaching techniques, and when you feel alone in the battle, you’re more likely to give up and stick with what you know. Studies show an instructor whose department does not support a new initiative is less likely to try it themselves. And it’s not just about encouraging faculty members to try it, studies show instructors need to be continually supported as they train for and implement these practices to increase the likelihood of success.
How do you find training and support to help implement and effectively use new technology and teaching methods in the classroom?
- Start by checking out your institution’s teaching and learning center if there is one available. These departments are specifically designed to help with implementing new teaching formats and can often connect you with other instructors who are doing the same so you have a support system as you work through the change.
- See if anyone else in your department is interested in incorporating the new element you’re looking into and build a working team where you can research together, share ideas, and work through struggles together.
- Similar to our suggestion for number one, finding an online community of instructors facing similar challenges can make it so you don’t feel alone on your path to change. Maintaining relationships with other instructors helps to provide support in your transition—even if they don’t work at the same institution. A great place to start looking is with your courseware. See if the publisher has an active community of users where you can post questions and look for help.
- Speaking of courseware, again, check in with your provider. See if they have training that can help you better utilize any features you might currently be unaware of. Sometimes the answer is right under your nose; you just didn’t click the right button.
- Lack of student engagement – Student engagement is a tough nut to crack. With a diverse classroom of students and a variety of learners, finding the best way to engage with each of your students can be mind-boggling on its own, but throw in using a format they’re not used to, and it can feel like a recipe for disaster. In fact, many instructors avoid new teaching methods—like active learning—because they find students are resistant to it and do not come to class prepared. So, basically, studies show that these new teaching methods are good for students, but what’s the point if they don’t participate?
How do you get students excited about participating in class?
- One way to combat student indifference is to fully embrace the new experience yourself. If your students don’t feel that you’re excited to teach them, they won’t feel excited to participate.
- Let students help choose the activities you do so they feel more ownership over their learning experience. You can provide options or have students submit recommendations and then vote on what they would most like to do.
- Have students self-identify their learning style (or if they don’t know have them use a quiz like this one to find out). Use this information to break them into working teams for the semester. From there, you can work in specialized group projects that play into their learning style, making them more likely to engage.
- If you tend to do more online than in-person activities, find a course solution that incorporates the activities directly in the courseware so that it becomes a part of your student’s learning experience instead of feeling like extra work.
- Lack of classroom space and resources – The environment a student learns in can have a big impact on their success. For some students, a large lecture may work, but for others, they need more personalized activities to stay engaged. But when you have a class of 300, how do you effectively utilize things like active learning or provide individualize activities based on your students’ needs? And even when you do have a smaller class, how do you modify the standard, fixed-seating classrooms to better foster student engagement activities?
How do you foster active learning and engage students in both large lectures and small classrooms?
- Try to incorporate small activities where you can to foster active engagement. Include things like polls or voting in the classroom to keep students’ attention. Take a 30-second stretch break to snap students out of the lecture haze.
- Have students come to the front to assist with activities that everyone can watch. Not only will it get the individuals selected active, but other students will be more actively engaged in watching what their peers are doing.
- Take things outside the classroom. Visit other areas of the school that provide a more collaborative environment—like the library or outside on a nice day. Sometimes just changing up the environment can break the monotony and help put students in the right mindset to retain more information. This can be easier for small classrooms but can be adapted for larger lectures with activities like scavenger hunts or off-site activities and experiments where students can work on their own or in small groups to bring back results.
- Use courseware that provides students a more interactive experience to keep them engaged in their coursework so they are more prepared to participate when they get to the classroom.
At Knewton we know these challenges can set you back when trying to provide your students with the best education possible. With that in mind, we built our courseware to help you overcome many of the common challenges’ instructors face today. With dedicated training and support, goal focused activities built directly into the courseware, and a studio that allows you to collaborate with fellow instructors anytime, anywhere, Knewton Alta is mastery-based, adaptive courseware that puts achievement within reach for all students and helps you accomplish the goals you never thought possible.
Demo Knewton Alta today and explore the potential.