Getting students to pay attention

The worst thing that could happen during a lecture is when somebody starts talking at the back. Sometime a lecturer can accommodate such behavior but there is also a time when it is just too much. When the situation has caught your attention and started to trigger your explosive anger, the first thing to remember is that, “I am not going to lose my temper here”. For whatever reason please do not show your anger and frustration in front of the students. Take a deep breath, stop the lesson for a while and excuse yourself. Reenter the room only after you have calm down. There are several reasons why the students lose interest in the lecture :
• They are tired and hungry.
• The materials are too difficult.
• They have some thing more important right after the class (tests,presentations etc).
• The girl sitting beside him is far more interesting than the lecturer in the front.
• They could not catch up with the lecture.
• The student has no interest in the subject whatsoever.

There are several possible ways to handle the situations:

1. TALK to the students and not to yourself or the white screen. Maintain the eye-contacts and move around to get closer to them.
2. If you caught someone did not pay attention (speaking or doing some other things than following your lecture) call up the name and ask him/her a question or suggestion regarding the topic. Start a discussion to pull everybody together.
3. If the whole class is getting noisier than you know the lecture has to stop and you have to start something else. Usually this is the best time to do group discussion or written exercise that you have prepared earlier.
4. Telling jokes could ease up the tensions in the classroom. Crack a few jokes if you have them but if you are not the jokes-telling type, just be cheerful and pleasant and just as much goodwill can flow from that.
5. Take a short break. The break is particularly necessary if the lecture needs to be done during the whole two hours.
6. If there is one individual student keeps bugging you and interfering with your lecture, KINDLY/NICELY (although your are burning with anger) ask him/her to stop and tell him/her to stay behind after the lecture has finished. It is important for the student to know what is bugging you and take an action if necessary.

The classroom should be a place for both parties to share knowledge in harmony. In addition,a fun and enjoyable classroom environment will enhance the learning experience and promote effective and quality teaching.

Priceless Moments with my EMBA students

EMBA(Executive Masters in Business Administration) students are among adult learners that we have in UiTM. The way to handle adult learners is a bit different from our regular, young and full-time students. I would like to share some thoughts and tips from my first experience dealing with them. The first group of students has always been special to me as we are all trying to be the best. For the first day, I was already down with a headache. It was not as easy as I thought. I was prepared to teach but a bit nervous to handle the “adult situation”. There were company executives, bankers, engineers and fellow lecturers. I was pretty shaken up and began to have second thoughts about going through the rest of the program. Eventually, I stayed on. I returned to the class for the sake of their commitment and respect. Not very many of us sacrifice the weekends to go to a class and learn something. It was definitely an effort worthy of praise. I persevered and before long, the relationship between us started to grow warmer. Some were skeptical and kept their distance, while others could not wait to buy me lunch. By then I was part of them and gained more confidence. Some of their questions seemed to me to be plain stupid but it turned out to be an excellent topic for class discussion. They liked to talk and jumped into discussions without much effort. Apparently, the class had become very lively and fun. For them, humor is something they never leave home without. Sometimes, the discussions were so hilarious that I could not hide my laughter. Looking back, I think they taught me far greater things than the stuff I churned out during the lecture – they taught me about life, friendship and respect. There are several basic skills needed to handle adult classes (Draves (1984)):

• Be a good listener.

Listening is important because learning becomes more effective when a participant is expressing an idea. Try to understand what is meant and respond positively. Contradict or refute only when necessary.

• Identify insecure or slow learners.

Most adult learners find some materials taught are difficult thus slow in trying to understand them. A lecturer should learn about this during the first/second meeting to fine tune the teaching pace. It is important also to build their confidence and keep the desire to learn alive. Some rewarding gestures such as a smile, nod or pat on the back should exercised from time to time.

• Do not punish students

Never punish an adult student. It is counter productive to learning. Punishment has inhibited learning more than any other factors.

• Do not be offensive.

When things are not right, do not offend the students. Instead of saying “ I’m really annoyed when people don’t hand in assignments on time “, say “ I really hope this work gets done by next week”. This sounds less offensive and does get the message across.

• Use humor.

Use humor whenever needed and without overdoing it. Bad jokes will turn the students away.

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