Friday, June 23, 2023

Teaching Techniques Case Study - How to Boost Learning Motivation

In a class at a technical college, I asked the students to prepare coins in advance. I explained: "Each group has coins totaling 100 units. Now, look at the stock market trend chart on the screen and make a judgment. The current index is 8000 points. Can each group guess whether the next number will rise or fall? The upcoming numbers are all real, derived from the weekly market trends of the stock exchange!"

"Each coin represents 10,000 units, and each bet is for 100,000 units (meaning 10 coins on the table). If you guess the trend correctly (up or down), your group can win 200 units per point of index change. Winning 50 points is equivalent to winning one coin (representing 10,000 units)."

"If you guess the trend incorrectly, you lose 200 units per point, and for every 50 points lost, you need to return one coin (representing 10,000 units) to the table in front of the teacher."

"The group with the most coins at the end will be treated to a drink in the next class!"

The students were eager to participate. I asked each group to write their prediction (rise or fall) on an A4 sheet and raise it, and then place their virtual coin chips... Some students bet all their 100 units on a rise (meaning buying 10 units, with a virtual value of 1 million units). Then I pressed the button on my clicker, and the index on the screen dropped from 8000 points to 7700 points! This meant that each group either won 6 coins (200 * 300 points = 60,000, representing 6 coins) or lost 6 coins. There were cheers and disappointments among the students. The group that had bet all on a rise lost 60 units immediately, leaving only 40 units of chips (this was just a game, and the coins were returned to the students later). As the students eagerly waited, we prepared to reveal the next number...

This is a real teaching example. The students were from the continuing education department of a private technical college. The course was titled "Futures and Options". Teachers who have taught continuing education students in private schools know that many students are too tired from working during the day to focus on classes in the evening. However, through similar course game planning, we successfully attracted the students' interest. I grabbed the weekly trend chart from the internet, revealed the index one by one, and matched it with the news at the time, asking students to make judgments on the next week's index. Students thought they were playing a game, but they learned basic concepts of futures trading during the game, such as index rise and fall, points and amounts, premium calculation and maintenance, trading units, and risk... etc.

We also required students to interview industry professionals. Each group would interview two senior colleagues from securities firms, banks, or insurance companies to discuss their investment strategies and perspectives. Before the interview, the students needed to submit their intended questions to me, ensuring that their queries were of a high standard and would address the key points. After the interview, they had to summarize the content and make a 20-minute presentation. In addition to giving the report, they also had to answer questions from their classmates.

You might wonder: Would the students ask questions? We had already considered this issue! So if no questions were raised from the floor... it meant that everyone understood! In that case, I would pose questions to the audience based on the content of the presentation, asking them to explain or answer!! The audience would realize that if they didn't ask questions, they'd be the ones to face a grilling (I would ask them to answer my questions, thus relieving the presenters). To avoid this 'fear factor' (as my questions could be much tougher!), they would do their best to ask questions so that they wouldn't be the ones under fire. Then, it was the presenter's turn to face the challenge!! A casual presentation would not suffice as it would attract a barrage of questions from the audience.

Interestingly, after their presentations, these queried speakers would become the most eager questioners the next time! Having been put on the spot during their presentations, they would seize the opportunity to exact revenge when the tables were turned!! (So, from the second time onwards, the sessions usually became very lively! I could just stand aside and watch!)

Motivation to learn can definitely be boosted through various methods. It all depends on whether the teacher knows which methods to use to elevate it. There are many different possibilities and methods, such as games, competitions, practical simulations, outside-of-class assignments... Many of the techniques I use have been learned from many great teachers (like my academic advisors: Professor, , and Dr. from my doctoral program).

I know that teaching in this manner can be complicated, and I've heard countless differing opinions:

"In a single class, as long as a few students feel they've gained something, it's worthwhile..."

"There's nothing we can do... that's just the students' level..."

"You've never taught our students... you wouldn't understand..."

Indeed, not only does teaching in schools present challenges, (I've had a few years of part-time teaching in universities) but instructing in enterprises can be an even bigger challenge! When your audience comprises executives with practical experience, you must swiftly earn their trust and demonstrate the value of both the instructor and the course. Many participants will directly challenge the teacher or simply walk out. Immediately after class, you'll be faced with satisfaction ratings. If the feedback is not good enough (on a 5-point scale, most companies demand 4.3~4.5 or higher), a review starts immediately... Every place, every course... they're all challenges!

What's important is to return to the essential core... what's at the heart of teaching? Is it knowledge sharing (the process of teaching) or facilitating learning and change (the stage of learning)? If the focus is on learning... then an initial lack of interest or reaction from the students should be seen as normal! What matters is not what the teacher wants to teach, but how to teach effectively. This is a process of trial and error.

Different courses require different methods. I can't provide a standard answer. What I can confirm is: merely lecturing won't be very effective! As for the evolution and development of teaching methods, I believe that as long as a teacher is committed, they can find effective and engaging ways of teaching, making learning enjoyable and attractive for students. When you see previously disinterested faces becoming involved and excited, believe me, it's an immensely rewarding feeling!!


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