Can Codes & Standards Class NOT be Boring? Field notes from a novice.

Presented by: Nadya Kozinets

I have been teaching a Codes course for second year ID students for 3 years. I remember my first lecture, as a novice instructor, teaching something I never taught before. Least to say, it was “interesting” experience.  I tried to COVER every textbook’s topic, so every class I had to prepare my lecture slides from scratch (2 lectures per week) and to read/re-learn a content. I worked harder than students and barely kept my head over the water to keep up. Lecture preparation consumed all weekends and evenings. I had no time to rest. To make things worth, just 1-2 class periods for every chapter were scheduled, so every time students were bombarded with a brand new concept.  As a result, students were stressed and not very successful. Less than 20% of my students – best ones - were in ‘B’ category (missed 2-4 questions). To evaluate myself, I solicited a feedback from my students. Apparently, I was talking too fast, my exam questions were confusing, my predominately text-based PP slides were impossible to follow. 

I knew it wasn’t working. I had to change my approach. In my third year with a helpful aid of a changed curriculum that made Codes course into a single from materials course, I had more evident success with not only flipping my course and making it active engaging and fun, but also making it aligned with my student’s interests. I stopped having PP every class. I haven’t stopped lecturing altogether, but only after introductive “getting involved with a topic” team assignments that turned bare information into a knowledge. By the time of my conclusive lecture majority of students were well versed on the topic. The teams were assigned from the beginning of a semester.  Also there wasn’t any attendance taken, but instead a weekly unannounced pop quizzes were conducted to ensure participation and continuous reading.

The most popular, according to my students, was an assignment to find a relevant YouTube video and a feature film clip.  Surprisingly, students discovered plenty of movies about code application. The best three in each category were shown in class.  To learn about egress compliance & components teams of students, supplied with emergency maps, had to analyze a building where class was situated and report findings to the class. To learn about occupancy classifications& load and means of egress capacity, the teams completed 3 case studies about local restaurants. Physically being in the space provided students with much needed concrete examples that hard to visualize in a textbook. The assignments also provided opportunities for group collaboration and socialization.  The most difficult assignment was “to teach each other” – to research& prepare a topic and present it to the students who were taking notes and asking questions. Students realized a difficulty of creating a comprehensive presentation – clear logical without misspellings – as well as a necessity of really knowing the topic. Being in front of the class and answering questions proved very challenging to many, but at the end, students gained more respect for my job as a faculty.


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