Harnessing technology and the power of song to bring learning alive

Excellence in Education Awards: Excellent Educator Award winner

  • Date

    Wed 26 Jan 22

Professor Anna Sergi has received an Excellence in Education Award for her use of communications technologies to engage with her students across her teaching.

Harnessing students’ tendency to use phones, apps and search online rather than raising their hand to ask in class, Anna, Professor in Criminology, has adapted her teaching to embrace these new technologies to reach students in a dynamic way that is familiar to them.

One technique Anna has adopted is the use of SLIDO for in-class participation and virtual classrooms. Slido is an interactive participation tool to create quizzes, polls, and Q&A space.

Students can use Slido to ask and respond to questions, anonymously, if they want. Anna can answer in real time or later, to the whole class or individually, depending on the point raised.

Anna explains: “I am a passionate speaker, I move around when I lecture, I look students in the eye, and I demand attention from them. I have noticed, however, that my passion can discourage the most timid or insecure students in raising their hands or asking questions, especially in large lecture halls. The use of Slido has made interaction open to the whole class.”

To help students develop different skills (movie commentary; legal case analysis; peer-to-peer recorded conversation; media analysis; presentations), Anna has designed a Masters portfolio assignment. This replaces an essay-based assignment and has allowed students to extend their expertise and demonstrate this alongside the content being taught.

As Anna explains: “The students record themselves ‘interrogating’ each other, like an oral exam. The results have been surprising, with students engaging well with the task and that task increasing, on average, their final score. In fact, students’ marks in this module have increased because this oral assignment shows another angle of their knowledge and their ability to process content. Written assignments have not always able to capture this.”

Most catchy, perhaps, is Anna’s use of a song to get her students thinking about the topic of lectures. She selects a song and leaves it to the students to find and explain the link with what she is teaching them. She can be surprised by the students’ perceptiveness. The music is diverse in rhythms and lyrics, from various parts of the world, to promote inclusivity. This way to start the class is a practice that has become integrated with the rest of the students’ learning.

“Once the students guess why that particular song was chosen, they are closer to getting the final take-away message of the day,” says Anna.

Anna has also embraced aural communications technology to give feedback to students on their written work.

She explains: “as well as email, I have found that a good practice, that is more in tune with the way students get information is to provide an audio file with feedback. Usually 3-5 minutes long, I give general comments and list what I believe are the strengths and the weaknesses of what they wrote. This is a quicker, more dynamic and more personal way to interact with students and makes them feel listened to.”

Professor Pam Cox, Head of Department has been impressed by Anna’s methodology:

“The success of her teaching methods is proven through her impressive SAMT scores and, perhaps equally significantly, the steady increase in attainment on the part of her students. Anna Sergi is a demanding and innovative teacher who gets results. Her students learn and achieve through imaginative engagement, challenging assignments, and her own passion for their learning.”