Tools for Tutors: Encourage Fresh Insights and New Knowledge

In our last Tools for Tutors post we looked at working with feedback.  This time we would like to offer you some fun and unusual teaching advice. The process of teaching and learning, with its peaks and troughs, can sometimes be messy both for tutors and students. Sometimes it can be difficult to measure progress or excite students about certain topics. Sometimes it may be hard to translate ideas from abstract concepts to practical application or to find ways of getting students to generate fresh thinking.

Adaptability, thinking on one’s feet and creativity, alongside the thirst for lifelong learning, are often named as essential graduate skills. Today’s students are expected to be agile learners and skilled communicators, and universities play a vital role in equipping them with those skills. So, we have put together some ideas for lively and creative teaching that will bring new energy into your classrooms.

A word of warning: although we are passionate about creative approaches to education, please remember that some students may find it difficult to take these activities seriously.  Therefore, it is vital that you make the rationale for each task very clear by clarifying the expectations and learning benefits at the start of each exercise.

Try these activities:   

  • Lego (for the times when you hit the learning ‘brick’ wall) –use Lego bricks to teach referencing and storytelling and get the students to think about the consequences of their choices. Alternatively, ask them to represent their learning by creating Lego worlds. If you do not have access to Lego, you can use cardboard boxes!
  • Get the communication juices flowing and build great teams.  You will need 20 spaghetti sticks, a piece of string, sticky tape, one marshmallow and a stopwatch. 
  • Balloon towersthis fun activity teaches problem-solving and teamwork! If you do not have balloons, use old newspapers. Limiting the supplies and introducing competition will get your students to think on their feet and have some fun along the way.
  • Encourage creative academic writing through blogging or a regular learning journal so that your students practise linking cross-disciplinary ideas to their own research. They will also be able to practise communicating effectively and concisely about academic research. 
  • Pen, paper, scissors – how about drawing mind maps to summarise learning points? Or creating posters and collages to reflect on learning discoveries?
  • Boardgames – designing a board game can be a fun way for students to apply their learning and test the knowledge of their peers. Visit this website for some inspiration.
  • Top trumps split students into teams and get them to create Top Trumps cards. Great for teaching and debating history, politics, philosophy, and any other subject! 
  • Solve the mystery – how about coming up with a mystery scenario and turning your students into detectives? Use cards with clues and coded messages. Have a prize for the winning team!

Before you go: remember to add some reflection time, discuss insights and identify action points for your students’ learning at the end of each activity. The same should apply to your own teaching practice. While it is great to harness creativity and innovation in one’s teaching, it is equally important to make fun purposeful and effective. 

We hope that these tools will open up more opportunities for learning and generating new ideas in your classrooms. All activities can be easily adapted depending on the resources you have available. They are also widely  applicable, whether you teach business, literature or quantum physics.

Let us know how you get on! If you would like to write an article about your innovative teaching, just get in touch using the contact form. We would be delighted to share ideas and best practice. 

Read this:

Watch this:

Reflect: take a few minutes and jot down your answers to the questions below. This will help you put together an action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?


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