Thursday, September 27, 2012

How to Explain a Difficult Concept When Teaching

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Dr. Erica Gamble

In learning, there are many concepts that are understood on a cognitive level but not necessarily on a practical level.

There are a number of teaching strategies that can be employed to teach students difficult concepts.

Actively engaging students in the learning process, including group discussions, problem solving, case studies, role plays, journal writing, and structured learning groups are just a few. The benefits to using such activities are many.

They include improved critical thinking skills, increased retention and transfer of new information, increased motivation, and improved interpersonal skills.

One of the strategies I strive to help students with and find successful is to provide real-world examples that allows the concepts to be seen via application.

In the Human Resources Management courses, there are many theories and techniques that are taught but the key is to understand how those theories and techniques are executed to meet the needs of people.

For example, in teaching a class on Organizational Behavior, I will provide or share articles that relate to organizational issues occurring today in Fortune 500 companies that the students can relate to. The articles would be related to the current weekly discussion, and touch on things such as confidentiality and legal matters, development, ethical issues and behavior overall.

I ask students to read the articles, give feedback, and ask further questions to help put the concepts into reality. This allows students to think about real life situations and how they would handle something similar, as well as challenges and preconceived notions of what organizational behavior really is.

Another example, in teaching Social and Cultural Diversity, I use relevant movies (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - about the struggle that certain Indian tribes went through with being pushed off their land; The Help - about segregation, racism and prejudice), and recently took an article out of the Phoenix Magazine about Mesa, AZ first Black Physician.

This physician despite the limited rights given to blacks during the late 1800s and early 1900s was committed to treating people no matter their race. He is being recognized for his service as well as his 1920s house being restored and deemed a landmark. In viewing these movies with the students, I have seen them become more aware of their own prejudices and judgments as well as their own pain.

This allows them to put the concepts into reality while making real-life commitments to become more sensitive towards others, challenging those judgments and beginning to see people from different perspectives.

This is important because it enables them to understand what it means to be empathetic, what it takes to address an issue and thus what a client might be experiencing and need to be supported on.

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