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Rather than confronting the student head on, we take a more
circuitous route to assessment
Teaching by distance brings unique challenges to both students and
teachers. Challenges include irregular contact, the difficulty of
explaining abstract concepts via email or telephone, the lack of peer
support and classroom interaction for students and, most of all, the
difficulty of getting to know your students.
A useful strategy to increase contact with students is the telephone
assessment. OTEN's communication
and media courses have a range of subjects that lend themselves
to this: team presentation, job seeking skills, negotiation skills,
conflict management, customer communication and presentation skills.
Designing assessments is one thing, persuading reluctant students to
take part is quite another. While some revel in the opportunity to
avoid a written assessment, others are ‘skittish' to say the least.
They repeatedly postpone, invent fabulous excuses to avoid "the
call" and often just don't answer the phone.
This is where the skills of ‘student whispering' come to the fore.
Rather than confronting the student head on, we take a more circuitous
route to assessment. A classic case is the student who panics at the
very mention of doing a job interview role play over the phone.
This is a case for the ‘student whisperer' who calms the student by
reassuring them that they can have multiple attempts at the assessment
if necessary, then spends time chatting about the weather, the footy,
Princess Kate…or whatever catches their attention. (A superficial
knowledge of popular culture is definitely in the tool kit of the
Pre-interview questions such as "what would you wear?"
often result in the "good clothes" response. By providing a
hypothetical $200, the whisperer creates an opportunity for more
conversation which often gives rise to a detailed description of the
‘purchases' and increased engagement with the student.
Once the student is steadied, the assessment topic is approached via
the side gate: a discussion of what the student might say if
they were doing the assessment, which of course, they aren't. (So
Sometimes the whisperer might ask the student for advice they'd give
a job applicant; at other times they might ask the student to suggest
questions the interviewer should ask. Asking them to imagine they are
in the interviewer's chair opens up another conversation about what
interviewers are looking for: skills, personality, attitude and ability.
Usually, at this point, the student is receptive to direct questions
and before they know it, they've passed the assessment.
Teaching communication is as much about the process as the content of
the curriculum. Being a whisperer means that the shy and nervous have
an opportunity to discover their voice and build confidence –
essentials in any career.