Lectures are not the only way to develop students’ knowledge and understanding of the discipline specific information they are required to engage with. When developing your unit, consider including provocations as well as lectures as one way of engaging students.

Provocations provoke thinking. In fact, they do more than that: they generate thinking. This helps ensure we aid students in developing more than content knowledge, but also, and perhaps more importantly, we aid in their development of critical thinking skills, in thinking from a range of perspectives, or questioning what they’re told and having a greater capacity to question the information they have access to.

Provocations by their very nature are contentious and often pose wicked problems – problems that aren’t easily solved, problems that require thinking from multiple perspectives and points of view, problems that may not have only one answer. They encourage students to think critically, to analyse information, to tap into their own beliefs and values and to see the need for, and then go searching for, additional information.

Short, sharp provocations can incite student interest, tap into their motivations for studying the subject and give rise to discussion and interaction.

Some examples include:

  • Starting with a provocative statement about the topic. If you’re teaching auditing, for instance, you might state that there’s no need for auditors and then go on to make an argument to support that statement. In the seminar, you might then ask students to present a counter-argument.
  • Using a current news story to illustrate a particular concept/idea. For example, you might provoke students into thinking more about marketing an arts events during a time of isolation due to a global pandemic.
  • Developing an argument from a range of stakeholder positions. For example, if you’re teaching ethics you might raise arguments about a particular ethical issue from the perspective of a government agency, a local business leader, a political leader, a homeless person. In the seminar, students could take one of those perspectives and interrogate it further.

In these ways, you help generate thinking and support students’ self-management, critical thinking, and communication skills as well as their discipline-specific knowledge.

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