Embodied Learning Engages Lecture Students
Andy Davis
adavi481@uwsp.edu
"Professors should plan to cut one third to one half of the content they plan to teach in class," said Assistant Professor of Asian History Valerie Barske, quoting a speaker she had seen at a college faculty program.
 
What constitutes a university lecture? Typically, professors are stationed at the front of the classroom, armed with their notes and possibly a slideshow. Students are planted firmly in their seats, scribbling away as they listen to their professor.
 
Barske reaffirmed that just because a professor does not touch on a single aspect of their lesson plan, their lesson is not compromised. Students will still be able to grasp the overarching concepts of the class. She also noted that time restrictions can also impede the progress of planned lessons. In light of the new General Degree Requirements (GDR), professors of different departments around the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point are reevaluating how this information is taught.
 
Barske said that the new GDRs are being structured with intended learning goals, laying out the skills and knowledge they want students to leave with. These skills include things like working in a group, effective note taking and critical thinking.
 
In order to mix up the standard lecture style, Barske utilizes a method of instruction called "embodied learning." Embodied learning is a way for students to "do" the subject matter they will be studying, instead of simply remembering and regurgitating facts, names, dates and other such material.
 
"We need to redefine how we see knowledge," Barske said. "We also need to reclaim the idea that we are dynamic complete human beings and that learning does not just take place in the mind."
 
Embodied learning can also allow access to tough topics to teach, such as slavery and oppression in world history. Some students would appreciate this change of pace and increased involvement.
 
"I’d like professors to get students more involved, either with activities or projects," said junior Jordan Gust.
 
Being honest, Gust said that lectures are fairly boring, especially if the professor is monotone. He said he is more of a hands-on and visual learner, and that typical lectures do not cater to his learning style.
 
"There are some lectures I do like, but it has to be something I enjoy," Gust said.
 
Barske made it clear that she was not criticizing the teaching methods of he colleagues.
 
"I’m not pointing fingers at other people’s pedagogies, but I am trying to spark a small revolution," she clarified.
 
Michael Wesch has created a short Youtube video, "A Vision of Students Today," in which 200 students from Kansas State University commented online and surveyed themselves about what it is like being a student. Many students in this short documentary briefly explain what their own personal experiences are as students. At the end of the video, words appear on the screen saying: "Some have suggested that technology can save us…some have suggested that technology alone can save us." Barske shows this video to her class during the first few days of class to help explain her teaching methods.
 
Often the first impulse when talking about revolutionizing education is to turn to technology. In Barske’s opinion, this is not an effective solution.
 
"We have to know how to interact with each other," she said. "Technology is useful, but I’m worried about people not communicating with one another."
 
In her History 102 class, Barske tries to promote a sense of community, often assigning small group tasks and readings. As the final project for that class, she will have students come up with their own opinions and political positions on the events of Okinawa, and then act them out.