Monday, March 21, 2016

Whole Class vs Tutorial Instruction - for Adults

Can I just point people to this blog post when they ask what I did for March Break?

My March Break was relaxing but full. My family and I visited friends to play RPGs and went downtown to the ReLab at Ryerson University for a GamingEdus mini-reunion and facility tour. My car tires were changed and repairs were made - costly, but necessary.

I also taught.

My husband and I are the Lead Couple Facilitators for our church's Marriage Preparation Course. (I've written about it on this blog before.)  The six-week, twelve-hour course is intended for engaged couples to understand "what they're getting into" and learn strategies for improving communication, conflict resolution, increasing intimacy and discussing challenging but important topics.

The St. Barnabas 2016 Marriage Prep Grads: Group 1

The St. Barnabas 2016 Marriage Prep Grads: Group 2

The St. Barnabas 2016 Marriage Prep Grads: Group 3

This year, I felt terribly guilty. I was unable to attend three of the six sessions, because of prior commitments (the TLLP Summit, a TVO Teach Ontario webinar, and my uncle's funeral in Montreal). In our revised course, attendance is a priority. If a participant misses a class, he or she is obligated to arrange for a make-up session with one of the facilitators at a separate time. (We're pretty strict about this but for good reason; every class has vital content that can't be skipped.) Because I was the only facilitator to miss so many classes, I volunteered to be the instructor for any couples that missed lessons. This year, we actually had two couples that needed extra multiple classes. Before the course officially ended, I met with the pairs and scheduled a "remedial" session for each during March Break, at their respective homes.

Before arriving at their residences, I wondered how the teaching experience would differ from two instructors addressing a room of thirty-two participants to a single facilitator with just two individuals. I examined the presentation plans (one which is usually done by another couple) and tweaked them as best as I could.

There are a lot of parallels to working with engaged couples and students in school. There are some advantages to working with a large group (aka whole class instruction) but there are also some benefits to working with less people (aka small group or tutorial). A large group can provide a special kind of energy as people bounce ideas off each other and learn from each other. Certain activities work better with a larger group. Yet, having a smaller group means that you can target discussion and directions more to assist the specific learners. The teacher's attention is less divided and there's time to get personal. With less people, I thought we'd whiz through the content; however, each small group meeting went for over three hours! It was illuminating to get to know the couples more in depth. We practiced the skills (especially creating "I-Messages") with more examples and more feedback. It also felt very rewarding afterwards because, by working closer with a smaller group, it was clearer to see that progress was made.

We try hard during our Marriage Preparation classes to offer both whole class and small group instruction, but it's tricky. We establish "mentor couples" to sit at the same table with the same small team every week for book discussion so that rapport can be built (and it is), but as the photos indicate, these groups reduce the ratio from 32:2 to 10:2 - smaller, but not as conducive for very personal discussion like the 2:1 balance I had during the rescheduled, individualized classes. We'll be recruiting more mentor couples and sending them for training with the Archdiocese. As for "regular school", I need to make sure that I continue to vary the size of my groups. I must ensure that at some point, I get to work individually with students, so we can have those bonding conversations while getting specific with feedback and assistance. I may not be able to book a time to visit them at home for a personal tutorial, but I've got from September until June to make time.

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