Another dot in the blogosphere?

Walkabouts

Posted on: October 15, 2008

This week marked the end of the first round of walkabouts at the MxL. We continue with another round next week.

What are walkabouts, you ask? I conduct walkabouts by getting my preservice teachers to present their final projects in a less conventional manner. They are assigned a booth at the MxL and they can set it up any way they wish.

I think the more important question is WHY I prefer walkabouts. I have a few responses.

I firmly believe that teachers tend to teach the way they are taught. So one of my goals has always been to model alternative principles and processes.

I have nothing against traditional presentations. There is a time and place for them as long as they have a clear purpose. However, traditional presentations tend to be (but are not always) summative in nature. This week’s walkabout was formative as it was designed to allow the presenters to test their ideas and to make improvements. Traditional presentations require presenters to showcase weeks of work in a very limited time. They also require the audience to sit through presentations that may not be of interest to them. The Q&A that typically follows is also limited in terms of time and scope.

I think that a walkabout allows the best aspects of traditional presentations while allowing for more meaningful learning to take place. The non-presenters can choose which projects to listen to and participate in. They presenters can take as much or as little time as they wish (within reasonable limits, of course). In other words, this approach is not one-size-fits-all.

The presenters get to present several times and over a longer period of time. They have to think on their feet more often as they respond to questions and attempt to engage their self-selecting audience. They interact with smaller audiences so they can address their needs better. In other words, presenters have to step out of the mindset of what I like to call PowerPoint-pedagogy (blindly following a rigid sequence regardless of the need at hand). They can also get more critical and relevant feedback as a result of a more intimate setting.

Finally, the walkabouts allow me to contextualise the presentations in two settings. First, as a presentation to teachers from the same cluster of schools in Singapore. I think that this context helps preservice teachers to think more like full time teachers and less like students. They must be more attuned to what and how other teachers think.

Second, the walkabout was a way of celebrating the end of the course. As my trainees were allowed to bring refreshments, they could feed their audience’s minds and bodies! Furthermore, this air of informality might relieve some stress of presenting a project.

I look forward to the walkabouts next week. I hope that my preservice teachers do too!

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