Saturday, September 27, 2014

Understanding - Do they know what you are saying?

Recently I have noticed a huge disconnect between me and my students when it comes to out of class assignments. In an attempt to make things easier (or so I thought) I duplicated the class on our college course management service (Moodle). As I created the numerous duplications, I assumed that the class and the course work made sense - after all, it was linear, there were numerous types of assessments, the links all worked and there was multi media. However, over the last week many students have reached out to say they don't understand the assignments, how to use Moodle or how to post their assignments.

This has led to some serious contemplation on my part - am I clear when I deliver messages to my students or am I simply assuming that they understand? Could it be that since I understand what I am doing, I believe they do? Is this a case of the teacher not taking time out to recognize the needs of the student? There really is no clear answer but I think I can attest to the following:

  • Never assume your students understand what you are saying or writing
  • Always review in class the assignment or course work that is on the CMS
  • Before you leave a module or week make sure that each student has asked, and you have answered, any questions they may have
  • If students are still not understanding, be fluid and revise - just because we have more education doesn't make us smarter than our students; in fact, it may make us a bit blind
  • Tell your students that no question is "dumb" or "silly" - they should always feel free to ask for what they need
Even with 11 years teaching under my belt I still learn something every day...from my students.


  1. SO TRUE, Ellen! One of the ways I manage to get help from students is that there is an option to work ahead, and some students really take advantage of that, working one or two weeks ahead of the rest of the class. They are the pioneers! Which means they are the first to notice broken links, confusing instructions, missing stuff, whatever. I am always so grateful when they let me know about a problem, and I also assume "no news is good news," and as they keep on working ahead I can be at least hopeful that it will go smoothly as the rest of the students follow along. :-)

    1. Hi Laura, nice to see you here. May I quote you in the POTCert course?
      Two interesting ideas that some educators are afraid of. One is the option to work ahead and second is getting help from your own students.

  2. Hi Ellen, I came across your blog when I was looking through the list on the Connected Courses website, trying to find, as suggested, another participant's blog to respond to. At the beginning the title of your blog caught my attention. You see, I hate writing or I am scared of it or my thoughts all scatter as soon as I decide to write or all that and more, but this is not why I decided to comment :). I am writing because your post is relevant to another open course that I am attending called POTCert where we learn about Teaching Online. One of the topics that we are covering is the online syllabus and how that it and the whole course design is always a work in progress. As a corporate trainer I am always reviewing my course design, informed by trainees' feedback and my own observation of how the course went. Sometimes I don't change much about the course but I come up with alternatives and small twists that I can use depending on a particular group needs. Every group of trainees is different and it pays to start with talking to them about how they would like certain things be done. I may not be able to accommodate everyone every time, but at leas I am aware of the challenges that they may be facing which allows me to support them better.

    Here's a link to the POTCert course if you'd like to take a look .

    By the way I haven't posted anything for the Connected Courses yet, but hope to get there and look forward to reading something of yours.