It is well established that the Higher Education environment is overwhelmingly diverse in its student body and so is my experience in supporting their learning across two universities (Birkbeck and University of East London) and two main campuses. My main teaching takes place in Stratford Campus while a small part of my time is spent on the central campus in Bloomsbury. I support students from both universities but booked sessions (groups and one-to-ones) are aimed to Birkbeck students. Since I am not focused on a single discipline, I meet students from across all disciplines and levels of study.
The literature I have come across so far underlines the importance of knowing our students and links this element to the success of the teaching, “effective learning” and design of learning activities. This becomes one of my main considerations, as I don’t get the chance to know my students but only in rare occasions. This makes me alert to respond to a variety of eventualities and also be very well prepared.
I often say that I respect my learners, each one of them, and I also admire them for their efforts to balance a complex life with studies. Do my sessions reflect this respect?
Each time I create a new presentation, I question myself whether a student with certain disabilities will be able to equally benefit from the material as will the students next to them who do not have any physical or learning difficulties and therefore I choose fonts and graphics that will help these students make the best of it.
I also wonder, what if some learners are quicker to follow and learn than others? Having discussed that with my line manager she gave me a great idea; if I have many activities handy to “feed” the quick learners, they will have more opportunities to practice, feel a sense of achievement and mainly not feel bored, while other students struggle to respond to the first activity. Having practiced that, I realised that quick learners found this exercise challenging and asked for more and more complex activities.
Nevertheless, this poses a new question; do my sessions foster different learning styles, and if yes, could the Learning objects I create foster different learning styles in an online environment I cannot control?