1. What was the pedagogical strategy that you intended to implement in your course to promote autonomy in your students? Why did you choose this strategy? How could this strategy potentially benefit you as well as your target students?
Peer teaching. I chose the strategy because I have used peer teaching in other courses, but not in a systematic way and also not in a way where I explicitly told the students about it and focused on the ‘teaching’ aspect. I chose the strategy, because I think it is one of the most effective ways of promoting autonomy in a classroom setting – especially when combined with project work. This is because it gives the students a real incentive to engage with a topic in a deep way and there is also a cycle of self-directed activity including preparation, presentation and dealing with peer feedback.
2. Did you explain to your students as to why you wanted to implement this strategy in your course? If so, in what way did you do it? If not, why not?
Yes, I don’t remember exactly how! I think I mentioned that many of them would be teachers, so it would give them an experience of teaching. I also emphasized several times that the point of presentations was to ‘teach’ the class something.
3. How did you monitor the implementation of this strategy in your course? Were there any particular incidents or student comments/responses that struck you as to whether the implementation of this strategy was effective or not? If so, what were they?
I am not sure that I had a good monitoring myself, because I relied a lot on Issa who was present in every class. I recall that after the first and second rounds of informal peer teaching, I expressed some concerns about whether the students had really got the idea of ‘teaching’ and about the depth of the material they presented. I also met several of the exchange students informally outside class, who gave me positive feedback and encouraged me to continue.
4. Did you encounter any difficulties when implementing this strategy? If so, what were they? Was it possible for you to do anything to improve the situation? If so, what did you do? If not, why not?
Yes, I think that in some ways the course was a bit disorganized because it was not only a pedagogical experiment, but also the first time of teaching a course on this topic (and the first time to teach a GE course). Several times I felt that the students were not getting enough input from me, especially on the more theoretical side, and this was why their peer teaching lacked the depth I expected. There was also the problem of competing demands on the time for teacher input and independent inquiry. Earlier presentation lacked depth because there was not much time to prepare. I don’t think I really resolved that positively and, in fact, I tended just to give them more time for independent work towards the end. (I remember giving up a whole class for this just before the final peer teaching sessions).
5. If you were to implement this strategy again to promote autonomy in your future students, would you do anything differently? Why or why not?
Yes, I would have a much more structured and planned approach. I would probably start with more theoretical input and try to make sure the students had mastered some of that before going into independent inquiry. I would probably have more classroom-based discussion tasks in the first part of the course and longer independent inquiry sessions later – also more structure – e.g. giving the students specific materials to look at and questions to address.
6. What suggestions would you give to teachers who are interested in using this strategy to promote autonomy in his/her students?
I think it takes a lot of pre-planning and good organization of time and content to make it work well. The problem really is that, if you have an outcomes based approach, you have to make sure they get to the outcomes (e.g., in terms of mastery of the course content or critical thinking) through peer teaching. I think this doesn’t happen automatically!