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Teaching problems subjects


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Teaching problems subjects
Phillip Warwick

Published in: Education
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Teaching problems subjects

  1. 1. 1
  2. 2. 2 How can problem subjects be made less of a problem? Philip Warwick Durham University Business School
  3. 3. 3 Outline • What are problem subjects? • Do they have any common characteristics? • Ideas to improve the teaching of problem subjects?
  4. 4. 4 Context • Why my interest in problem subjects? • Any suggestions for a list of problem subjects/modules?
  5. 5. 5 Definitions In the literature, subjects were described as: • ‘Where learning interests lie elsewhere’ Fallows and Ahmat 1999 • ‘Unpopular’ Arnold & Truran 1999 • ‘Peripheral’ COLES 2002 • Subjects students don’t want to do • Difficult • Boring • A waste of time ‘Problem subjects’ (Warwick and Ottewill 2004)
  6. 6. 6 Characteristics of problem subjects Problem subjects tend to be: 1. Compulsory 2. Impart ‘essential background knowledge’ 3. Difficult 4. Different 5. Perceived to be irrelevant 6. Have a diverse student body 7. Overload students Sometimes problems compounded by staff
  7. 7. 7 What can be done? What usually happens • Staff hand them over ASAP (someone else’s problem) • View it as a ‘rite of passage’ for new staff • Problems compounded by student body and staff • Ghettoization • Cut off from colleagues who grumble about evaluations and grades Best practice guidance •Take collective responsibility •Tackled as part of course design •Utility of the subject is emphasised in other modules •Establish and demonstrate relevance to the students
  8. 8. 8 Relevance • Establish • Relationships with other modules • Other components of curriculum • Career benefits • Demonstrate • Link to other modules • Link to work experiences • Experience the subject
  9. 9. 9 Pedagogic techniques • Challenge preconceptions about the module • Use lots of examples and draw on direct experiences of staff students or through cases • Encourage and build opportunities for students to demonstrate knowledge • Emphasise the connections with other components of the discipline and later career choices • Aim for students to experience the subject material rather than learn about it.
  10. 10. Student Nurses Management Module • Emphasis on management experiences rather than management theory alone. • Experiences of good leaders and managers • Experiences of team working • Practical exercise on NHS finances rather than a lecture • QALY calculation and vote in the lecture • Ward budget exercise in seminar • Change management case study based on hospital food video 10
  11. 11. 11 Have you got a problem module? • At some point in our HE careers we are likely to find ourselves teaching a problem subject • Did you pass it on to a junior colleague? • Did you grin and bear it? • Did you leave the organisation to dodge it? • Did you do something about it?
  12. 12. 12 References ARNOLD, A. & TRURAN, J. (1999) Working with students to enhance an unpopular course, in: S. FALLOWS & K. AHMET (Eds) Inspiring Students. Case studies in motivating the learner, pp.113-119 (London, Kogan Page). COLES, C. (2002) Variability of student ratings of accounting teaching: evidence from a Scottish business school, International Journal of Management Education, 2(2), pp.30-39 FALLOWS, S. & AHMET, K. (Eds) (1999) Inspiring Students, Case Studies in Motivating the Learner (London, Kogan Page). WARWICK, P. & OTTEWILL, R. (2004) How can problem subjects be made less of a problem? Teaching in Higher Education, 9(3), pp337-347