February 26, 2008

Motivating Students and Teachers Alike!

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

When I undertook to develop a video collection about developmental psychology with a colleague from my department Nathalie Fréchette, I had two objectives in mind. I wanted to produce a pedagogical resource, but I also, somewhat selfishly, wanted to again have the pleasure of studying infant development. My story is therefore divided between the attainments of these two goals.

A New Pedagogical Tool

The video collection in question was set up as part of a project conjointly supported by the CCDMD and Collège Édouard-Montpetit. The resource contains more than 70 videos which can be accessed on the site Le développement de l’enfant. Topics include those most frequently discussed during courses on developmental psychology between the ages of 0 to 8 such as sensory and motor development as well as social and cognitive growth. A second phase is currently under development which will increase the collection within a year.

Even if there is already an impressive number of films on developmental psychology, they are generally video or DVD ‘programs’ of considerable length and complete with background music and narration. We wanted to get rid of these elements which, although interesting as televised content, are dead weight in the classroom. We wanted to offer teachers the flexibility of showing short and to the point examples of infant behavior during class time which could be easily accessed through the Internet. Although the sequences are shot using francophone subjects, the lack of narration makes these learning objects useful in classes where the language of instruction is not French.

Fluid Retention: Stage 1 (In French)

Each video illustrates a specific concept or behaviour and is rather short (between 1 to 5 minutes). Although each clip is accompanied by a concise explanatory text and bibliography, teachers can always simply show the material to the students and explain in a fashion that is in keeping with their own course content. It is also possible to ask students to interpret the video sequences according to the information that they have already been presented. Finally, as the site is accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection, students can be asked to watch the videos as homework.

An Initial Progress Report

The site has been up for about a year. Reactions from colleagues in the college system and from my own experience have in general been positive. They were confirmed by a survey taken among teachers of developmental psychology who felt that the vignettes were useful in their presentation of the subject. Observation of real children is highly appreciated by students and brings the material presented by the teacher to life. The short length of the videos permits several to be presented during a course without breaking the rhythm of the class. When the class is in a room with a data projector, the teacher can connect to the Internet at any time without the necessity of borrowing equipment or films. Finally, the teacher remains in control of the information that accompanies the videos because the episodes contain no narration. The teacher decides what is pertinent and can leave the rest aside.

This project was developed while I was teaching. I consider this ideal as I could really think about how the resource would be integrated into my classes. The reactions of my students to the preliminary versions of the videos also contributed to their development and kept me focused on using the material as a resource for teaching rather than working towards an abstract ideal in isolation.

What I Got Out of the Project

The development of the Internet site not only permitted me to acquire an interesting learning object, but also provided me with the pleasure of exploring a field which fascinates me and which is developing rapidly. I was obliged to delve into the literature about recent developments in developmental psychology. One of the points that I wanted to make in this story was that working on projects such as this provides satisfaction that goes beyond pedagogy; it permits you to rediscover the enthusiasm for your subject that you had as a student, which is not always possible given the responsibilities of college teaching.

Would I be exaggerating if I said that certain teachers developed an interest in their subject before they developed an interest in teaching? Feeding your passion for your subject is a great way to stay motivated and to motivate your students as well! 

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