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I'd rather play twister with John Hopoate: Engaging the unenthusiastic student

Penny O'Connor
Curtin University of Technology
Engaging students in the subject matter can be a challenging task at the best of times. At the worst of times it is demoralising and depressing, and teachers can begin to despair of ever finding the key. Teaching history units in highly vocational courses such as construction management, quantity surveying and architecture pose particular problems because they are commonly taught to young and inexperienced first year students whose perceptions are often romanticised and unrealistic. In this climate, relevance becomes a major issue.

The problems of getting students to attend classes, let alone stimulating discussion, developing their interest and helping them to achieve the desired outcomes are inexorably interrelated. In revising first year units of this type in recent years, I've tried to address all these issues by closely reviewing both the nature of student assignments, and the criteria against which they are assessed. That in turn led me back to the unit outcomes. What I wanted to understand, and to help students understand, was very precisely what the unit was trying to achieve through the different assignments. In considering alternative formats and making changes, I hoped to arrive at assignments that developed very specific skills, skills which could be assessed against criteria that were relevant, to both the assignments and hopefully also to the students. In more carefully considering the outcomes of my units, and how the assignments related to them, I feel as if I'm arriving at a program that I'm more confident is actually achieving something, for both myself, and for at least some of the students!!! The dilemma then in this paper is how well do the outcomes of our units, accord with the assignments we set, and the criteria against which we judge them?

Author: Penny O'Connor, Lecturer, Architecture, Construction and Planning, Curtin University of Technology. p.o'connor@curtin.edu.au

Presentation format: Dilemmas in teaching or teaching/learning research

Please cite as: O'Connor, P. (2002). I'd rather play twister with John Hopoate: Engaging the unenthusiastic student. In Focusing on the Student. Proceedings of the 11th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 5-6 February 2002. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2002/abstracts/oconnorp-abs.html

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