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New and effective ways to learn

By Ben Ashcraft
On April 3, 2014


Kirkwood Community College provides education for thousands of students. The traditional teaching style of lecturing has been practiced in classes for years but some instructors are breaking the mold and using new techniques to reach students. 

Christine Shea-Hunt is a psychology instructor at Kirkwood who has been teaching fulltime for three years. Shea-Hunt said she uses a team-based format, which makes the instructor more of a facilitator and less of a lecturer. She said she learned about team-based learning at a conference in the summer before her first year of being fulltime. Afterward, she said she researched team-based classroom settings and decided to apply it in her classroom teaching. 

"If it's used correctly, and the students are open to it, it's a really effective way of learning," Shea-Hunt said. 

Shea-Hunt added that students need to be engaged in the class when it comes to following a team based teaching style. In order for students to succeed in the class, they need to attend so they can get work done with their groups.

Groups are decided by a survey Shea-Hunt said she passes out to her students at the beginning of the term. These surveys, which had questions about how the students learn best, determined how she selected the permanent groups.

Another instructor at Kirkwood who uses the element of teams in the classroom is Natalia Cherjovsky, communication studies instructor. She said she also uses a team-based format mixed with many other styles in her classroom. Cherjovsky has been teaching at Kirkwood for fewer than three years  (she has been teaching for 10 years) and described her teaching style as "diverse and ever evolving."

"There has not been a single semester in the 10 years I've been teaching when I have not changed at least something in each of my classes," explained Cherjovsky.

She said her classes are revamped yearly and heavily rely on technology. All the student materials can be found on ANGEL which is where they also submit their work.

Recently Cherjovsky said she has introduced a flipped classroom technique, which has students review material on their own so they can use class time for activities and discussions that soldify what they have learned.

Cherjovsky stated that some of her classes are also taught as hybrids to accompany the flipped classroom and group requirements. 

"I think that the combination of techniques I use creates a more engaging class where the student is at the center of the learning and is responsible for his or her own success. I'd like to think this makes for a really effective way of teaching," Cherjovsky said.

She stated that she has observed a definite increase in student engagement and success due to the fact that it's hard to do well when not engaging with their respective group. "Those people who commit and work hard will learn a lot. Those who want to cruise through the course will find that a lot harder to do in my classroom," Cherjovsky said. She stated that her classroom encourages students to rise up to the challenge and step out of their comfort zones.

Both Cherjovsky and Shea-Hunt said they enjoy teaching in a style different than the usual lectures. Both instructors stated it helps the students get engaged and even lets them get more engaged with the students. 

Cherjovsky and Shea-Hunt both said they have received positive feedback on their choice of teaching styles but some students prefer lecture-based classes because that's the way they learned in the past and that's the only way they feel comfortable. 

"Education is not about comfort. It's about growth. If something doesn't challenge you, it can't change you. I'd like students to remember this when it comes to college: It won't be easy but it'll be worth it." Cherjovsky said.

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