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Want to improve your teaching? Become a student again

Man writing in notebook in cafe Photo courtesy of KMo Foto

Looking for ways to teach more effectively? Try walking a mile in your students’ shoes. A growing trend amongst professors and teaching assistants is completing their own assignments before or alongside their students in order refresh their pedagogical framework and better engage their students.

A common critique of post-secondary assignments is they are often peripheral to classroom curricula. Designed as a means for measuring learning rather than producing it, student will complete assignments on their own with little opportunity for collaboration, discussion, and reflection.

Adopting a student perspective may also help instructors create a more enriching classroom environment. Completing their own assignments—including those in use for years—functions as a form of quality assurance and may spark new ideas for integration into the classroom. The practise may also act as a refresher, preparing instructors to teach the content, and the resulting work may be used as examples to show students best practices and expectations.

If a significant amount of a student’s final grade is attributed to assignments, they should be given comparable weight in the classroom. These are opportunities for students to apply classroom theory into relevant projects that will help foster stronger skills, knowledge, abilities, and relationships than they would in a stand-alone worksheet.

While regularly completing student assignments may not be feasible for many instructors, the benefits may still be achieved by having teaching assistants participate in the exercise. There is no doubt the process requires extra work, but the opportunities to improve course delivery and student learning are boundless.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

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